Top business people in South Devon have been treated to a rare drink – coffee blended with beans grown right on their doorstep.

A small number of coffee beans grown at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park were added to a blend served to delegates at the English Riviera Tourist Company Industry Update at the Riviera International Conference Centre on 12th December.

Paignton Zoo’s Head Gardener Catherine Mortimer, a keen coffee drinker, said: “It’s fairly unusual for a coffee plant to produce fruit in the UK. I collected the coffee cherries and dried them on the windowsill in my office. Then I decided to find someone to make them into a cup of coffee for me!”

Up stepped local coffee roaster Peter Blake, of the Costa Rica Plantation Company, based in Torquay. He offered to roast and grind the beans.

Catherine was able to try a cup of coffee made from a blend using her very own beans. The rest went into Peter’s special English Riviera Roast blend. The origin of the Zoo coffee beans was revealed during the event. Delegates each received a free bag of coffee to take home and taste.

Catherine said: “This cup of coffee has taken a year to make – the flowers opened in December last year, the fruits formed in February. I picked the cherries in June and dried them for five months. It was well worth the wait!”

Peter added: “We would normally import, roast and blend coffee beans from around the world, so to have a green coffee bean grown just a couple of miles away is indeed unique.”

“I am very excited about the launch of any new quality product bearing the English Riviera brand name as it will allow us to compete more effectively on the world stage,” said Carolyn Custerson, Chief Executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company.

The coffee plant, along with all the other plants in the Zoo's nursery, receives a high level of care and attention. Catherine: “Gardener Lorna Nicoll-Griffith, who looks after the nursery, cherishes them all.

“It has been used for propagation material and for education, occasionally being carried down to the Education Centre so that children can see what a coffee plant looks like - the rest of the time it lives in the nursery greenhouses.

“In the summer it gets fed once a week with a multipurpose liquid feed, in the winter this is reduced to once a fortnight. All the plants in the nursery are checked daily and watered as required. The greenhouse is kept at a high humidity, approximately 70%, to replicate the tropical environment.”

Quotes Loads to see and do, for a full day out. Quotes