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Your guide to Papua New Guinea coffee
Papua New Guinea's arrival on the world's stage of coffee producers is fairly recent. It wasn't until the 1880s that the crop was grown here, and only since the 1950s has production reached anything like commercial numbers. The country exports virtually all of its coffee - about 48,000 metric tonnes or 800,000 60kg bags annually, placing it in the top 20 growers globally. It’s responsible for around 1% of the world production of coffee, and given some serious logistical problems, that’s a very respectable figure.
Origins of Papua New Guinea Coffee
Sitting in the southwest of the Pacific, the land now known as Papua New Guinea (PNG) forms the eastern half of Papua island. This Melanesian nation has Indonesia to the north and Australia to the south. Covering about the same area as Spain, it is largely wild and untamed, characterised by mountainous terrain, much of which is impassable, dense rainforest, jungle and vast mangrove swamps. PNG gets a lot of sun and rain and is fertile and green - ideal for agriculture.
The coffee industry was introduced to Papua New Guinea in the 1880s by German colonists, who planted in the north of the country. The British followed suit, starting their own patches in the south. Cultivation of coffee beans is mentioned in colonial reports from the end of the century.
Thousands of coffee trees were planted around Rigo in the southwest and by the dawn of the 20th century, a plantation known as Variarata, near the capital of Port Moresby, had begun exporting to Australia. Coffee production was still on a fairly small scale and relied on the moderate quality of Robusta beans grown in the lowlands. Not until the late 1920s, when Arabica trees were planted as an experiment in the eastern highlands around Morobe did commercial coffee in Papua New Guinea take off. The experiment proved that the fertile terrain and climate in the highlands were ideal for the cultivation of coffee plants. The plantation, subsequently named Blue Mountain Coffee after its Jamaican origins, branched out from supplying raw beans into roasting and grinding them for the home and export markets. This was the spark that ignited the development of PNG's quality coffees, as the planting of the seeds spread across the country's highland areas.
After the Second World War, as the global appetite for good-quality coffee grew, commercial production in PNG spread like wildfire. Some estimates say the acreage used for coffee plants multiplied 30 times within 20 years. Although there are still a number of large plantations, the tricky, mountainous terrain confined the spread of farming to small areas where the Arabica coffee beans have grown. The 1950s saw government interaction with the many tribes to promote hundreds of "coffee gardens". Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975 and at present, its smallholders supply 80–90 per cent of the coffee grown in the country. Almost all of them work with Arabica plants at altitudes of 5,000 feet (1,520 metres) or more. Most of the farmers will grow legumes, bananas, papayas and other foodstuffs alongside their coffees.
Coffee grown in PNG is getting more well-known as the Oceanic state slowly opens up to tourists, mostly from Australasia, who come to experience its spectacular scenery, unparalleled flora and fauna, and the unique hospitality, culture and folklore of its people. This is also helping to push the coffee prices up.
Tribal customs still hold sway in many villages, inhabited by people such as the Suli Suli dancers, the Tattooed Women of Oro, the Asaro Mudmen who wear clay head-dresses, and the Huli Wigmen, all of whom still practise traditional rituals. Not to mention the Baining Fire Dancers and the Skeleton Men of Sepik with their gaudy body paint. Largely unaffected by the colonisation that changed the neighbouring lands, these people still live largely off the land, clustered in small clans in the forest, jungle and fjords and speaking 800 different languages - a challenge for anyone trying to cultivate plantations and do business! Nevertheless, over the years Papua New Guinea has acquired a reputation for high quality tasting coffee with some unique flavours.
Wanpela Kap Kopi
The myriad tribes of Papua New Guinea make doing deals and running a business very difficult. To many of them, the concept of creating products for sale is still unknown - food from the earth, fish from the sea and belongings, are there to be shared. When it comes to trading, they use a common language: an unlikely English-based Creole tongue known as Tok Pisin, or Pidgin - the first language of some urban areas. In this colourful tongue, a cup of coffee is "wanpela kap kopi" and coffee beans are "pikinini bilong kopi". To ask for it, you say "Mi laikim kopi, plis." Bon appetit! is "Hamamas!"
Despite the scattered nature of its farms, coffee is hugely important to PNG. It is the main income channel for most highland farmers and directly or indirectly supports about three million people - almost half the state's total population - contributing £70 million in exports each year. The Coffee Industry Corporation is working to bolster the business by strengthening sustainability and quality, improving research and education and assisting the communities. As a result, PNG coffee is playing a bigger part in speciality markets.
Some of the obstacles and challenges facing coffee cultivation and delivery in Papua New Guinea have turned out to have hidden benefits and unexpected results. The ragged infrastructure, poor roads and telecommunications, and remoteness of the plantations have held back the introduction of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. All the coffee is therefore organic and conforms to Rainforest Alliance criteria. Also, small local variations in the soil, the other crops grown in the same fields, and the different growing and processing practices help enrich the harvest.
What does Papua New Guinea coffee taste like?
All of Papua New Guinea's Arabica coffee plants have been grown from the seeds of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee trees and share the characteristics of that highly prized crop: sweet, smooth, clean and mild. As more than 90 percent of PNG's coffee is grown on small "coffee gardens" and the rest on large plantations, there is a difference in taste, depending on how the beans are cultivated and processed. On the larger estates, the coffee cherries are taken to a central point where the hulls are removed; then, the beans are washed and left to ferment for a day and dried in the sun. This leads to a smooth coffee with a mild flavour, gently acidic with hints of black cherry and ginger. Sigri is one of the most famous estate coffees. Premium smallholder coffee, on the other hand, grown on the fertile soils of the wilder terrain of the western or eastern highland province, (Simbu, Morobe and East Sepik) is picked by hand and dry-processed. This produces a different kind of drink: fruity, tart and nutty, with chocolate and citrus. Perhaps its best speciality coffee is the peaberry. This is a small crop produced when some of the Jamaican Blue Mountain cherries mutate, so each pod contains not the usual two beans but just one. As a result, the beans are "beefed up" - more intense in flavour, aroma and acidity.
Our Papua New Guinea coffee has distinctive chocolate and nut flavours, with a fruity mango and papaya finish.
The world's second-largest island, Papua New Guinea is a country of staggering natural beauty, fabulous wildlife - from tree kangaroos to birds of paradise and pristine coral atolls - and colourful tribes, so you would hardly expect its coffee to be any less colourful or out of the ordinary. You won't be disappointed.
Papua New Guinea Coffee Review
Don't just take our word for how delicious this coffee is. Here are just a few of the recent reviews for Papua New Guinea coffee:
“The full-bodied roast of Papua New Guinea beans has a rich flavour and wonderful taste.”
Madeleine M. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Really excellent coffee. Love the depth of taste and mellow notes through it”
Neil G. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“As always delivery is very quick and the coffee is of its usual high standard. I find the Papua New Guinea coffee is strong enough but smooth and no bitter after taste. Definitely my favourite.”
Neil L. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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