Annabel Bowles

Tropic Now journalist

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Cafe Yorkeys proves the potential of eco-conscious coffee

Bamboo straws and beeswax wraps are no longer niche millennial novelties, at least according to Federal MP Warren Entsch.

When the Member for Leichhardt called Tropic HQ to sing the praises of a local eco-friendly enterprise, we thought we’d better take notice.

As it turns out, Cafe Yorkeys isn’t just known for a good cup o’ Joe.

While many cafes have struggled to stay open amid COVID-19, owner Tim Morehead has been busy transitioning his business to a plastic-free zone.

He recently joined Green Caffeen, a network of over 500 Australian cafes supplying reusable and returnable coffee cups.

Like a library system for coffee-lovers, customers can pick up a free Green Caffeen cup at Yorkeys, take it home, and later return it to any participating bean-brewer within 30 days.

Tim and other eco-conscious cafe operators then wash and sanitise each cup before passing it onto the next Green Caffeen sipper.

“We have about 40 cups on rotation, and a few people have actually chosen to come to Yorkeys because they can swap their cup over here,” he said.

“Living on the coast you see a lot of people wanting to cut down on waste as much as possible, to keep our beaches clean.”

For these reasons, Cafe Yorkeys’ customers will also find locally-sourced sugarcane packaging, paper trays, and boxed (not bottled) water.

Tim’s Mareeba-grown mango smoothies can even be purchased with a reusable One Straw; whose proceeds fund beach and waterway clean-ups across the country.

“The plastic free alternatives are a little bit dearer but we’re happy to absorb that initial start-up cost, and hopefully once more people are on board it will become a bit cheaper,” Tim said.

As Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, MP Entsch believes Cafe Yorkeys has been a “sensational” leader in adopting plastic-free solutions to protect the environment.

“It’s interesting how small businesses, who can least afford sustainable alternatives, are the ones that are taking charge,” he said.

“Tim’s taken the hit to the bottom line initially, but he’s going to be head and shoulders above many others in the end.

“It’s not that we don’t know the ramifications of plastic, we do. It’s not that we don’t have the science, we do.

The one thing we’re lacking is the will to make the change, and it seems to be small businesses and individuals like Tim leading the change.”

Scan, swap, drink and return your Green Caffeen cup at these TNQ cafes:

The Palms – Aeroglen

The Healthy Hub – Cairns North 

Providore Amore – Cairns 

Cairns Courtyard Café – Cairns

Silk Caffe – Cairns

Blackbird Laneway – Cairns

Blackbird Warehouse – Bungalow

White Whale Coffee Roasters – Cairns

AQUA Lagoon Cairns – Cairns Lagoon

District – Holloways Beach

Cafe Yorkeys – Yorkeys Knob

Sapori Antichi Italiani – Smithfield

Sprout Juice & Coffee Bar – Kuranda 

Whileaway Bookshop & Cafe – Port Douglas 

Ma Kai Cafe – Thursday Island 


This story originally appeared in Tropic Magazine Issue 27. Read the issue here