From lawyer, to caffeine fiend, Toby Smith of Toby’s Estate has certainly made his mark on the Melbourne coffee landscape.
His unique story began when he decided to live within some of the more remote regions of the world, such as rural Brazil, to experience life among the farmers that toil to produce many of the coffee beans we enjoy in Australia today.
After returning home full of admiration for the farmers and concerned with the idea that mass production could mean an end to specialty coffee beans, Smith returned to Australia and began experimenting with coffee roasting, all out of his Mum’s garage!
Nowadays, Smith does not only own his own café and supplies a number of other haunts around Melbourne, but he has his own multi-award winning coffee plantation Finca Santa Teresa in Panama.
According to their website, “the farm is focused on pioneering new sustainable growing and processing techniques, allowing us to nurture the flavours within each bean from seed through to cup”.
The first blend that smith created was called, La Trinidad, which was grown, picked and processed at Finca Santa Teresa, and developed by Smith and Chris Bonney, his head roaster.
Smith’s focus on social, ethical and environmental awareness is certainly something that sets his brand apart.
Generally speaking, it is mass produced, cheaper coffee that is produced unethically, but Smith is eager to ensure he is an ambassador for the coffee industry at large.
For consumers buying brands of coffee that are not produced ethically, they may be supporting farmers who turn to cheap, child labour, who use pesticides or clears native trees and shrubs to grow their coffee trees and then who themselves are exploited by the big corporations doing the buying at the end anyway.
It is refreshing to see a paddock to plate (or cup!) story, in which a fad or trend is not the main focus, rather a real social conscience and commitment to quality are key.