Papua New Guinea is a bit of a wild frontier, there are still tribes that exist who have had little contact with the modern world. Meanwhile, the political system seems to perpetually border on meltdown. Still, this small neighbor of Indonesia manages to maintain a fairly reputable coffee industry becoming increasingly well known for its consistency and quality.
Papua New Guinea's first coffee plants were recorded in the 1800s, but it wasn't until the 1920s that commercial production really took off. Sangara, Papua New Guinea, located in the southeast of the country, established eighteen commercial coffee plantations in 1926, paving the way for commercial production.
Characteristics of Papua New Guinea Coffee
More than 90% of the coffee grown in Papua New Guinea is on small-holder farms or small village "coffee gardens", while the rest are grown on large plantations, and there's a distinct difference in their taste profiles, largely due to the way the beans are processed. Estate coffees (graded A, X, C and PB) are weighed and pulped at a central facility on the farm, then are washed and fermented for 24 hours before being dried in the sun. The result is a clean, mild flavor with balanced acidity - Sigri is one of the more established estate coffees, famously smooth and well rounded, considered by some to be among the best estate coffees.
Small-holder coffees, by contrast, live a bit more on the country's wild side. The coffee is typically Y grade or Premium Small-holder Coffee (PSC) grade, grown in the wilderness of the Western and Eastern Highlands, picked by hand and processed in a central processing plant - it's here where the coffee takes on its characteristic flavors, which often results in something quite wild and fruity. Papua New Guinea coffee is said to have a full-bodied flavor with a pungent fruitiness of mango and papaya.
Papua New Guinea Coffee: Interesting Facts and News Bites
- About 95% of the coffee is high grown washed Arabica, which thrives in favorable weather conditions of the highland areas.
- More than two million people in Papua New Guinea depend on coffee either directly or indirectly for their livelihood.
Papua New Guinea accounts for approximately 1% of world production of coffee. Today, the country's poor infrastructure and frequent hijackings are a major hurdle for Papua New Guinea. Some of the larger coffee producers report losing up to 50% of their produce due to theft each year. As a result, production and exports have been declining. In 2009, coffee was reported to be responsible for 18.5% of the country's agricultural exports and just 4.7% of total export revenue (compared to 38% and 13% in the 1990s). However, current movements by the private and public sectors have helped moved Papua New Guinea towards greater sustainability, better soil quality, and improved education of farmers, which has resulted in some notable coffees coming out of this country and are well worth seeking out (provided the thieving bandits don't beat you to it).
Since it is such a beautiful coffee, and since some seriously cool people grow this coffee, we decided we are doing a special hand roast of Sigiri Papua New Guinea Peaberry Reserve Coffee for the month of April.