Papua New Guinea Coffee (PNG)
Situated in the southwest Pacific, the land known today as Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprises the eastern part of Papua island. Bordered by Indonesia to the north and Australia to the south, PNG occupies roughly the same area as Spain. It's characterized by rugged terrain, mountainous landscapes, dense rainforests, jungles, and enormous mangrove swamps. Abundant sunshine and rainfall combined with fertile land make PNG perfect for agriculture.
German colonists introduced the coffee industry to PNG in the 1880s by planting crops in the northern region of the country. The British soon followed, setting up their coffee-growing efforts in the south. Coffee cultivation was reported in various colonial documents by the end of the century.
Coffee Planting and Expansion
Initially, coffee trees surrounded Rigo in the southwest. By the start of the 20th century, a plantation known as Variarata, close to the capital Port Moresby, had started exporting to Australia. However, coffee production remained somewhat limited, focusing primarily on the average-quality Robusta beans cultivated in lowland areas.
It was only in the late 1920s when Arabica trees were experimentally planted in the eastern highlands of Morobe that PNG coffee began to see significant growth. This successful experiment demonstrated that the highlands' fertile soil and climate were particularly well-suited for growing coffee plants. Subsequently, the plantation was named Blue Mountain Coffee, in honor of its Jamaican beginnings, and shifted its focus from supplying raw beans to roasting and grinding them for the domestic and export markets. This change marked the beginning of PNG's journey in producing excellent coffees. The cultivation of these crops then spread throughout the nation's highland regions.
Following World War II, the growing global demand for top-quality coffee led to the rapid expansion of commercial production in PNG. Reportedly, within just 20 years, the acreage used for coffee plants multiplied by a factor of 30. However, the challenging mountainous terrain still confined most cultivation to small areas suitable for growing Arabica coffee beans. In the 1950s, the government began collaborating with numerous tribes to establish hundreds of "coffee gardens."
Independence and Present-Day Production
In 1975, PNG gained independence from Australia. Currently, smallholders, who predominantly work with Arabica plants at altitudes exceeding 5,000 feet (1,520 meters), supply 80-90% of the country's coffee. In addition to growing coffee, numerous farmers also cultivate legumes, bananas, papayas, and other crops.
Custom and Coffee Traditions
As PNG slowly becomes more accessible to tourists, mainly from Australasia, its coffee grows in popularity. These visitors are drawn to the breathtaking landscapes, incomparable flora and fauna, and the unique hospitality, culture, and folklore of the PNG people. Several villages still follow traditional tribal customs; their rituals contribute to the distinctive essence of both culture and coffee.
Purchasing Papua New Guinea Coffee
Coffee is of central importance to PNG; it represents the primary income source for a majority of highland farmers, directly or indirectly supporting around three million people or nearly half of the nation's total population. Annually, coffee exports contribute £70 million.
Flavour Profile of PNG Coffee
All of PNG's Arabica coffee plants originate from the seeds of the highly valued Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee trees, bestowing a sweet, smooth, clean, and gentle taste. Processing methods and cultivation styles create different flavour profiles. Smooth, slightly acidic coffee with hints of black cherry and ginger results when coffee cherries are brought to a centralized location on large estates for hull removal, washing, and sun-drying. In contrast, premium smallholder coffee grown on fertile soil in the wilder regions of the highland provinces are handpicked and dry-processed, yielding a fruity, tangy, and nutty beverage with chocolate and citrus notes.
Undoubtedly, the distinct characteristics of Papua New Guinea coffee are influenced by the country's unique geography and vibrant culture. Just as PNG is a land of exceptional natural beauty, its coffee is equally extraordinary in flavour.
Savour your "wanpela kap kopi"!