Our Tanna Story
The Tanna Coffee Development Company (TCDC) was first established in 1982, to assist in the development of the newly independent South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Tanna Island was selected for a Coffee Development Program, due to it's history of Arabica Coffee production dating back to 1852. A large-scale plantation in conjunction with a ‘Smallholder Farmer’ program was established, and it was in operation until the early 1990’s. A combination of severe climatic conditions and coffee leaf rust disease caused its demise.
The Vanuatu Government, (who owned TCDC at the time), sold the ailing Company to private investors, who set about re-developing the potentially lucrative business. New, 'rust resistant', varieties of Arabica Coffee were introduced and planted out under the Smallholder Program, which resulted in encouraging production. Unfortunately, mis-management of the Program resulted in NIL harvesting for the following 4 years.
Terry Adlington (a coffee farmer from Australia) took over the company in 1998, and lived and worked with the farmers on Tanna Island for 3 years to educate them on the process of coffee growing, harvesting and processing their valuable product. Once established and producing quality coffee, TCDC moved to Port Vila to establish a Coffee Roastery and went about securing local and International customers.
The production grew over the next 13 years substantially, and in 2014, TCDC recorded a maximum production of over 86 tonne.
On 12 March 2015, Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu and all of it's 84 Islands. Rated as a Category 5, and with wind gusts up to 250km/hour, nobody stood a chance. Thousands of people's homes and livelihoods were destroyed, and a total of 12 lives were lost (7 from Tanna). 90% of the Tanna Coffee trees were destroyed leaving a total of 650 farmers without a source of income.
'We will rebuild' said Managing Director Terry Adlington. 'It's just not an option to give up now, as there are thousands of people's lives and futures totally reliant on the redevelopment of Tanna Coffee and we will not succumb’. Stumping, pruning and re-planting continued for several years with an initial meagre total of only 8 tonne recorded from the first (post cyclone) harvest, but annual productivity has subsequently improved.
The Tanna Coffee plantation is located in beautiful Vanuatu at 400m above sea level. With an average annual rainfall of 2500mm, it is perfectly suited for growing 'Semi-Dwarf’ Catimor varieties of Arabica. These are hybrids developed from some of the world’s finest coffee stock. The deep rich volcanic soils of Tanna Island are highly fertile, rich and free draining, providing a pest-free environment which ensures that Tanna is an ideal location for growing a pure and organic coffee in a sustainable, non-harmful manner.
Due to its pure isolation and the unique climatic conditions that prevail on this lush tropical island, Tanna Coffee became 'Organically Certified' in 2017, when almost 1,000 individual small-holder coffee farmers gathered together under the POET Com. & Organic Pasifika Banners to celebrate an incredible milestone in their journey. It is only through the total utilisation of traditional organic farming practices passed downthrough the centuries (without using any harmful sprays or chemical fertilisers), the Tannese farmers can be internationally recognised as fully ‘Organic’ under a self-regulating Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
CARRYING ON THE TRADITION
Arabica coffee was first sighted and recorded growning at Port Resolution on Tanna Island. The original varieties planted were probably 'Bourbon' from the Reunion Islands and 'Typica' from Jamaica. A selection of new rust resistant Catimor varieties were introduced in the early 1990’s and have obtained higher quality, better productivity and proven resilience, which is ideally suited to Tanna Island's unique environment.