PNG’s ‘Mr Cof­fee’

Paradise - - Departure Lounge -

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 airni­ug­

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