Coffee is grown all over the world. From mountains to islands, there are stunning places that grow some of the best beans around. Papua New Guinea coffee is a prime example. Located just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is an island nation boasting a rich coffee culture. It is often hidden in the general umbrella of Indonesian coffees. But this country’s coffee is unique on its own. Coffee beans are actually Papua New Guinea’s second-biggest agricultural export! Its diverse and mountainous terrain provides an optimal area for coffee growing. And, these beans have a fantastic flavor profile.
Together, let’s explore the fascinating history and culture of Papua New Guinea Coffee. It might just become your new favorite single-origin brew!
Papua New Guinea is a stunning island located in the Pacific Ocean. It comprises the eastern portion of the island of New Guinea. Australia is its neighbor just to the South. PNG is also just below the equator, giving the country a generally tropical climate.
The island itself has impressive geography. Papua New Guinea’s breathtaking archipelagoes and coastline make it any beach lover’s dream. The Highlands encompasses the central part of the island. These mountains offer cooler temperatures, especially at night. Therefore, this is where the majority of the coffee is grown. It is also important to note several volcanoes on the island. This means there are rich volcanic soils some say help the coffee plants flourish and lend them some unique flavors. There are many coffee plantations in the foothills as well. The primary growing regions are Eastern Highlands, Western Highlands, and Simbu/Chimbu Province.
Coffee production in Papua New Guinea is a direct result of its cultural and colonial history. The island nation has long been home to thousands of small cultural groups. Each possesses individual customs and histories. This is seen through the nation’s 800 recognized languages. The ancestors of some of these groups are responsible for innovative agricultural achievements. This led to global agricultural recognition. Organized agriculture work in the Western Highlands became a World Heritage Site in 2008. The rugged mountainous area has been tended to for at least 7000 years!
Coffee’s Arrival to the Island
PNG was colonized by both the Germans and the British in the 19th century. Then, the island nation became a territory of Australia in 1906. It is suspected that the Germans were the ones who introduced coffee there in the latter 19th century. Initially, robusta was the common plant grown. Then, an experimental lot of arabica attempted in the 1920s changed PNG’s coffee industry. Soon, seeds from Jamaica’s Blue Mountain region were planted. This is not much of a surprise as the colonial activity at the time spread various goods among island nations. Nonetheless, the arabica species of coffee adapted wonderfully to the climate, as the bean ideally thrives in mountainous climates.
The coffee cultivation in PNG did not begin to evolve until the 1920s. Small coffee plantations emerged and entered commercial production. Over the majority of the 20th century, PNG’s commercial coffee bean industry grew. The chaos of the World Wars did, however, put a halt to PNG’s coffee industry. Battles ensued with Australian troops occupying the land. Yet, the postwar era yielded a true boost to PNG’s coffee industry. Plantations multiplied like crazy, all owned by smallholder farmers, mostly in the mountainous areas of the Highlands. This strengthened the PNG economy and propelled them further into the competitive global coffee market. The island finally gained its independence in 1976. Since then, smallholders still own a majority of the coffee plantations. This is an amazing and unique character to the island. It gives truth to single-origin coffee. Sadly, these small farmers do not have as many updated technologies as the few other large farms. This makes it difficult for them to provide a consistent product. Thankfully, many organizations are working effortlessly to produce and promote these farmers’ products.
Now we get to the delicious part! The flavor profile of Papua New Guinea coffee is truly unique. As mentioned, most coffee on the island comes from small plantations. This gives a unique identity to the beans. It also provides most beans to be naturally produced. The coffee growing process oftentimes does not incorporate pesticides or chemical fertilizers. This is because of these chemicals’ high price points for local farmers.
In addition, the majority of the coffee beans are arabica. These beans really shine in the high altitude of the Highlands region of the country. High altitude tends to produce more flavorful coffee, due to it exposing the coffee plant to cooler temperatures. This preserves unique flavors and fragrances in the coffee. In PNG, there are varying altitudes and exposures. This gives diversity to the profile of the coffee bean.
Processing of Papua New Guinea Coffee
It is very important to note the processing method of PNG coffee. It is wet-processed. This may sound foreign to many, but it is a distinct characteristic of PNG coffee. When the coffee plant matures, it produces a cherry. Within that cherry is pulp along with the actual coffee bean. The way the cherry and the bean interact in processing ultimately affects the final product. Thus, in the wet process, the bean separates from the cherry in a process called ‘depulping.’ This occurs through a gentle process beginning at harvest. The beans soak in water to soften them before the pulp is extracted. Soon after, the beans rest in a fermentation tank for at least a day to 3 days. Before they dry, they must be washed again with clean water.
In PNG, coffee can often be sun-dried on smaller plantations. This is as direct as it sounds; coffee beans lay out in the hot sun to extract any and all moisture. A lot of times these smallholder farmers will then send their beans to a dry mill. This is almost like a co-op for coffee farmers, where beans are inspected and additionally processed. There, beans are bagged and prepared for shipment as well.
The Flavor Profile
PNG coffee delivers notes of earthiness and richness. It is less fruity, which is most likely due to its wet processing method. This method is known to make coffee taste more clean and less fruit-forward. Of course, coffee’s profile varies on how it is roasted. PNG coffee has very unique oils. These release quickly during the roasting process, as early as a medium roast. It is important to note that oil in a coffee bean does not mean it is of lesser quality. Oils naturally arrive through a heating process. Nevertheless, PNG coffee Again, it should not be confused with Sumatra or any Indonesian coffees, despite how close the two countries are. PNG coffee is a little less full-bodied than its neighbor’s. It stands out best in a light or medium roast. These roasts allow for the coffee’s flavor profile to shine. In lighter roasts, herbs and citrus notes are most present. Moving to a medium roast, subtle hints of mild spice and chocolate arise. Overall, PNG coffee has moderate acidity.
So, how can you prepare the perfect cup of Papua New Guinea coffee? Really, you can enjoy your coffee any way you prefer. But, there are a couple of brewing methods that allow for PNG coffee to shine best.
First, we suggest the pour-over method. This is a single-serve method that provides you with a customized cup of coffee. This is a great option especially if you find yourself with a light roast PNG coffee. The slow integration of hot water with coarsely ground coffee truly brings out the distinct flavor profiles of the beans. This will leave you with a mild and aromatic cup of joe. It will be easy and light-bodied, almost like a much stronger herbal tea!
If you are looking to make more than one cup, it is best to then try PNG coffee in a French press. The French press is super accessible and comes in a variety of sizes. It also allows for a bit of customization, as you can play around with both the grind of the coffee and its steep time. This would be a fantastic option for both light and medium roast PNG coffees. Try this method and share the story behind PNG coffee with friends!
A Final Note
Papua New Guinea coffee possesses a unique identity. Its geography and location offer an ideal climate for coffee production. Its myriad of cultures and vast history make it simply an overall fascinating place. This all also makes for an epic place to visit one day. While Papua New Guinea may be a long-distance away for many, it does not hurt to dream and start your journey there with the perfect cup of coffee. You will not regret it!