Papua New Guinea Coffee
Seriously cool people from Papua New Guinea grow amazingly delicious coffee.
Papua New Guinea’s Geography
Located on the Eastern half of New Guinea, which is the world’s second largest island and close to Australia. New Guinea used to be attached to modern-day Australia as part of a super continent called Sahul, however, New Guinea became an island when the Torres Strait flooded about 10,000 years ago.
Because of its location next to the Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate, Papua New Guinea has an interesting geography. The north is composed of jagged limestone with extremely thick rainforest, a swampy south coast, and the middle of the country is covered in high mountains called the Highlands. Despite being tropical and situated near the equator, the highest points of the Highlands still get snow.
A View of the Highlands. Photo by Stephen Gollan
Papua New Guinea is tropical year-round, but because of its location, is subject to monsoons in the north as well as earthquakes and tsunamis from erupting volcanoes and being situated between two tectonic plates. The Highlands, however, has its own weather patterns and the Highlands receives about 100 to 160 inches of rain throughout the year.
Papua New Guinea Culture
There are over 800 native languages spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. Most of the languages are spoken by less than 7,000 people, as many indigenous groups live in rural areas isolated from main urban areas and still rely on trading with other tribes instead of adopting a monetary trading system.
Even though it was connected to Australia for a long time, Papua New Guinea has vastly different animals and does not have any large mammals. Its largest animals are flightless cassowaries and crocodiles. Instead, the country is known for its extreme variety in birds and reptiles that have evolved in isolation. Papua New Guinea has over 30 different species of birds-of-paradise, and the bird-of-paradise is on their country’s flag. The country has the hooded Pitohi, one of the world’s few poisonous birds.
A Red Bird-of-Paradise. Photo by Australian Geographic.
Despite being a newly independent country, Papua New Guinea was not heavily developed by its colonizers and many land developers have a hard time making it here because of the rugged terrain, high cost of infrastructure and lack of Western education in indigenous tribes.
Papua New Guinea’s gold, copper, and oil deposits account for over 72% of its export earnings. The country is also a heavy producer of palm oil, and the largest crops exported are coffee, cocoa, and coconut oil.
The Boom (and Bust) of Coffee
Coffee production in Papua New Guinea can be traced back to the 1920s when 18 commercial coffee production sites were established.
The first coffee planted on the island was actually Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, which is usually known as some of the most expensive coffee in today’s market due to its extremely high quality and the small number of farms in Jamaica.
Major infrastructure has been put in place to help ease the exportation of coffee, which employs more than 2.5 million people and is one percent of the world’s coffee production. Coffee production took off in the 1970s, and became internationally noticed in the 1980s when frost in many Brazilian farms allowed Papua New Guinea to take the limelight.
However, the boom of coffee had major effects. When coffee farmers began to get noticed, they took on debts from Western investors that they were not able to pay off. Farms also quickly became decentralized, and many farmers became independent estates instead of being a part of one mega-farm. Coffee rust, a fungal disease that is present in soil and will kill the plant, also forced many of the coffee farms to shut down during the 1990s. In 1998, coffee accounted for 42% of Papua New Guinea's total agricultural exports compared to 2009 where it was 19% of total agricultural exports.
Frequent hijackings are also a major hurdle for Papua New Guinea. Some of the larger coffee producers report losing up to fifty percent of their produce due to theft each year and as a result, coffee production and coffee exports have been declining.
However, current movements by the private and public sectors have helped moved Papua New Guinea toward greater sustainability, better soil quality, and improved education of coffee farmers. This has resulted in some notable coffees coming out of Papua New Guinea which are incredibly delicious when properly roasted.
Sigri Coffee Estate in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea is located 5,200 feet above sea level and is considered to be one of the more renowned coffee plantations. The cool climate, high altitude and bountiful rainfall create an ideal environment for growing arabica coffee.
The coffee farmers still live very traditional lives and these ancient tribal cultures still thrive in the mountains and valleys of the highlands. Agriculture was invented independently here, and many farmers now include coffee among the crops they grow.
Fully washed, sun-dried and hand sorted, this coffee goes through a three-day fermentation process broken up every 24 hours for washing. The Sigri process, unlike those of other estates, follows this up by totally immersing the bean in water for one more day, producing a superior coffee. The peaberry coffee bean is a rare form of the coffee bean where the coffee cherry yields only a single, oval-shaped seed. Due to their unique shape, peaberry coffee beans require both special handling and roasting. Weaver’s Coffee & Tea, we have two very special coffees from this fabulous country.
Our Papua New Guinea Single Origin Coffee has subtle wine overtones and complex, date-like fruit flavors ending with a long, syrup finish.
Our Papua New Guinea Peaberry Reserve Coffee has a full, rich body with hints of spice and fruitiness, with a clean refreshing finish.
The next time you are enjoying a cup of coffee, try to image where it came from, the people who grow the coffee and the long road from their farm to your kitchen and ultimately to your coffee cup. Our Master Coffee roaster has worked with his coffee brokers and specific farms for over 44 years, which allow us to create coffees that are not found on a grocery shelf. If you love Indonesian coffees, we invite you into our world and hope you will purchase and enjoy our Papua New Guinea coffees.
Photo by Josh Griggs for Fairtrade Australia New Zealand.