About four and a half years ago I was working in my cubicle at Townsville Enterprise (Townsville’s tourism and economic development bureau) when an excited Allan Sharpe, of the Hervey’s Range Heritage Tea Rooms called me up asking me to write a media release for a new product they were about to start selling. Kopi Luwak. Cat Poo Coffee. $50 a cup. I wrote the release, the story caught like wildfire (I’ll admit to fanning the flames a little here and there), and the rest, as they say, is history. The story eventually made it into the script of The Bucket List (the producers called the cafe to get some details having read the story somewhere in the US).
Bean Scene magazine’s current edition has a feature article on Kopi Luwak (though they spell it with an e). Featuring an interview with Allan. Who is a top bloke, an outside the square thinker, and who can take the lions share of the credit for the attention the cafe received for this story.
From Bean Scene:
When Allan Sharpe and his wife Michelle started serving Kopi Lewak coffee at their business, Harvey’s Range Heritage Tea Rooms outside of Townsville, he was hoping for an article in the local paper.
Five years later, Allan laughs at the memory, as he counts the number of media outlets where his story ended up: The New York Times, The London Times, The Washington Post, World Press and Reuters World News to name a few. For a while Townsville Enterprises were tracking the value of the coverage, but he says they finally stopped at $5 million.
“It was the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere that made it a story,” Allan says. “It was so much more than just a story of coffee. By the end, the media attention on its own became the story.”
Photo from an Australian Traveller story on Allan and Kopi Luwak (it made their top 100 list of things to do in Australia that you haven’t heard of).
So what’s it like?
Another pic from the Australian Traveller story…
Kopi Luwak, as presented by the team at the Heritage Tea Rooms (a great little road trip from Townsville), is not worth $50. But the experience may well be. As a coffee it is sweet (though thanks to import laws it’ll never be as fresh as it should be), earthy, and pretty good. On the whole. Hence its reputation.
Image Credit: Bean Scene.
I had the pleasure of sampling a few cups on site, and a batch of the beans to play with at home (though this was pre-expensive machine). It was ok. But most of the value of the experience was in the buzz that comes from drinking the world’s most expensive coffee. And there is a buzz. The cafe gives you a certificate of experience, and they had one patron who lived in Townsville, but was originally from Melbourne, who made the trip to the Tea Rooms a few times, just so he could mail the certificates to his coffee snob friends.
The Heritage Tea Rooms occupy the oldest building in North Queensland, a split log cabin that used to function as a Cobb and Co rest stop as bullock trains crossed the range during the north’s gold rush. The cafe is well worth a visit, even if Allan isn’t in. And the Kopi Luwak may not be your cup of tea – but the experience is one of my favourite memories from my time promoting North Queensland. And by far the one I most often talk about, it’s also the shining moment on my PR resume. Not many people can say they generated more than $5 million in media coverage for a story about cat poo.