Regional Foodie visits the home of Lychee Divine; lychee growers and producers of some sensational lychee liqueurs and wines, produced on the Fraser Coast.
The Sunshine Coast boasts many wonderful tropical fruits, and a favourite of mine, would have to be the lychee. It is a pretty little fruit. A bright red armour-like shell protects its delicate pearly flesh that is slightly musky, almost peppery in taste.
Originally from China, and held in high regard by the Chinese, who have cultivated lychees for thousands of years, they are considered to be a symbol of romance and good fortune. Nice.
Fresh, the lychee offers unlimited possibilities – as is, lychees salsas, stuffing fresh whole lychees with sweet or savoury fillings or as an interesting addition to curries and salads. But come season end, there is now a way to enjoy lychees all year round…
I have always been quite intrigued by lychees, which is how I came to meet lychee growers Kerry and John Pool, the passionate couple behind Lychee Divine, producers of award winning lychee liqueurs, wines and condiments.
At the time they had a property in Pomona, and while they were already growing lychees, they also were growing peaches and nectarines. They have since relocated to the most wonderful property in Tiaro, approximately 80kms north of Gympie, that not only boasts over 3,000 lychee trees but also a 30+ acre dam that I was completely and utterly envious of and quite captivated with – what a little patch of heaven this place is!
Kerry and John moved to Tairo in 2006. The property had already been planted with lychees and over the years, Kerry and John have planted another 1000 or so trees focusing on three main varieties.
Growing lychees alone, is probably no great feat on the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts, the climate suiting this exotic sub tropical fruit immensely – it doesn’t take much to have a bumper crop when sun and rain marry up to create the ultimate growing conditions. The point of difference for Kerry and John is what they have managed to create with the lychees when the growing conditions are not as ultimate as they would like.
Sporadic periods of drought and other weather conditions – storms, hail, too much rain, not enough rain – can have a devastating impact on fruit and farming, often resulting in fruit that is considered less than prime.
Food wastage has become quite a hot topic among farming and food communities. It is fine while conditions are at their peak – prime fruit can always find a home on domestic as well as international markets. But experience a bad season, where fruit is deformed, undersized, blemished or underdeveloped, or a good season where there is an oversupply in the market, well, nobody wants the fruit then. The question then becomes what to do with it all.
That’s where the experimental process began. First with a few condiments, chutney, jams, sauces… and then a treasure emerged… lychee liqueur.
It is a delicate sweet – but not too sweet – liqueur and one I have quite taken to. It has an almost musky/rose-like flavour, and while it is perfect on its own, it has become quite the star in a couple of my own homemade cocktails!
There are also a number of flavour combinations – Red Dragon Lychee Liqueur, made with shiraz grapes, Lychee and Ginger Liqueur, Sunset Lychee and Mandarin Liqueur, and Lychee and Lime Liqueur. All equally pleasing to the taste buds. And then came the wines, sparkling lychee, sweet white and a red.
The wines are surprisingly good. I can imagine there a few people currently raising their eyebrows, rather than their glasses. I was probably one of them at first. I have had a few experiences with fruit wines, and very few of them have been good. But understand, this is not a backyard fruit wine. These are lychee wines that have had the involvement of premium winemakers, to ensure they were actually creating a product that was doing more than fill a use for unwanted fruit! And while I admit that I am no connoisseur of fine wine, judging by the awards they have already received, connoisseurs actually do think so too.
However, as with any new and innovative product, there are always some obstacles to overcome.
If you have ever tried to peel a lychee, you will appreciate that it is a fairly labour intensive process. Multiply that by 10 tonnes, and you have an innate desire to develop an easier way of doing this, if not for your sanity, then most definitely for the bottom line!
So this became part of the process. Not only have they developed a sensational range of liqueurs and wines, they have also developed a systematic approach to processing bulk quantities of fruit to make it a more time and cost efficient process.
Premium fruit will always have its place in the export market, but now anything less than premium stays in-house and is utilised to produce their liqueurs and wine.
Kerry is actually a food technologist, so her background has given her a greater understanding for the process and allowed them to experiment with various techniques.
December 2013 saw Kerry and John make the decision to expand their operation to lease the roadhouse at Tinana South. They have turned this lovely little old Queenslander overlooking a lily pad filled dam alongside the Bruce Highway, into the official home of Lychee Divine where you can stop in enroute to Maryborough and try their wines and liqueurs and other lychee products such as their lychee ice creams – which is the next best thing to eating lychees fresh! They also offer light meals, Devonshire teas and coffee. Local souvenirs don’t get much better than something locally grown and produced, even more so when it is a good as these wines and liqueurs. A special mention for the Lychee Balsamic Vinegar – it is divine… pardon the pun!
While the lychee season is now officially over, I seek some comfort in the knowledge that I can still enjoy lychees, even if it is in a slightly altered state.
For more information or purchase online, visit the Lychee Divine website at:
This story was written by Petra Hughes – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds
Photographs by Petra Hughes – © Copyright 2018 – All rights reserved
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