PNG’s ‘Mr Coffee’
Winning the Golden Bean Roasters 2016 bronze medal was a significant achievement for Cairns-based Billy Haoda. The Golden Bean is the world’s largest coffee roasting competition, with judges rating Haoda’s caffe latte as the third-best in Australia.
Born in Rabaul before growing up in Kimbe, becoming a world-class coffee roaster was not Haoda’s first choice of careers. “When I finished school, Dad suggested we start a small family business using a Cessna 206 to freight cargo and fly people from the south coast.”
He enrolled in a Cairns flying school, which subsequently went bust, leaving students who had pre-paid fees high and dry. Haoda took a job in a coffee shop, washing dishes while maintaining his dream of obtaining his commercial pilot’s licence.
“With my flying lessons on hold, I kind of got stranded in Cairns. I was caught between my parents wanting me to go back to PNG and wanting to finish my flying course and get my commercial licence. It was my dream,” he says.
His luck changed when the cafe’s regular barista didn’t turn up and Haoda was asked to step in. He quickly learnt the barista’s craft, with the manager telling him he was “actually good at this, you should do this for a living”.
Still focused on getting his pilot’s licence, he took another cafe job to pay the rent and mounting legal bills. Over the years, he learned everything there was to know about coffee, beans and roasting, and how each stage affects flavour.
Haoda and his wife, Sokara, opened Billy’s Coffee at Rusty’s Market in Cairns in 2004, and three years later they also started Billy’s Coffee in Sheridan Street.
Billy’s Coffee is a no-frills place where customers can have a real connection with coffee, but so, too, with Haoda, Sokara and son Kyla, who all work in the shop.
“You can get out of bed and come in, bring your dog, bring your cat, bring your own food if you like, we’re not going to judge you,” Haoda says, greeting customers like the longterm friends many have become.
Haoda has invested in his own stateof-the-art coffee roaster. He has a strong interest in working with PNG bean farmers to create his own individual, single-origin blend, highlighting flavour and nuance through different roasting techniques. He says that PNG beans are special as they are grown organically, particularly those from the Highlands, though coastal plantations are also now producing quality beans.
Haoda has his eyes firmly fixed on the single-origin blend category in the 2017 Golden Bean Roasters award.
Billy’s Coffee in Cairns is at Rusty’s Market (open Friday to Sunday) and at 57 Sheridan Street (open seven days). ■
Air Niugini flies from Port Moresby to Cairns 13 times a week. See airniugini.com.pg.