Moonshiners hiding in Federal, a Hinterland town near Byron Bay

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A road trip from Byron Bay rolls into Federal, a hinterland town en route to the walking tracks and waterfalls of the Nightcap mountains. As well as a Japanese inspired cafe, Doma, a general store, and a homewares emporium, this town is home to Moonshine Coffee Roasters. Words by Danielle Norton.

Roasters are in action and gleaming silver bowls are swishing the beans of addiction around in a mesmerising rhythm. Owner, Richard Kelly, wears ear muffs to protect his hearing, but from a few metres away, the regular churning is comforting. The smell of roasting green coffee beans is pungent and sweet in equal measure, a good sign of things to come.

Even though Jack is preparing to clean and backwash the customised La Marzocco Mistral machine on his countertop, he sees the desperation in his customers’ eyes and often lovingly turns the machine’s exquisitely crafted walnut handles until a deep rich coffee with thick crema slips smoothly into cups.

The house blend is a mix of beans from PNG, Colombia and Honduras and it is by far the best coffee I’ve had this week. The team specialise in Australian grown coffee and always have an Australian blend available alongside the single origin beans on offer.

Part of the local coffee industry for over a decade, Moonshine Coffee Roasters wholesales throughout the northern rivers and into Queensland. Operating initially from a secret coffee plantation with over 50,000 coffee plants, Richard draws heavily on the prohibition themes from America for inspiration, but the new premises in Federal have a very modern vibe.

Artist, Maggie Eileen Lochtenberg, has painted vibrant murals on the side of a shipping container in the courtyard. Emily Devers, a multi-visual artist and friend of Richard and Jack, has also created a mural on the inside of the roastery walls. It’s inspired by the myth of Kaldi, the Ethiopian goatherd who first discovered the invigorating effect of the coffee bean.

The Moonshiners have dabbled in producing a non-alcoholic IPA beer called ‘Sobah’ (sound it out), made from the pepper berries native to the area. Just like the original ‘moonshine’ during the prohibition era, this is kept a secret. The only way to get it is to come in summertime. Wind your way along the verdant vista of the hinterland roads to Federal, and try it for yourself.

Moonshine Coffee Roasters
3 Albert Street
Federal NSW 2480
25 minutes drive west of Byron Bay.

Opening hours: 7.30am – 1.30pm, Mon – Sun.