Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is often lumped in with Indonesian coffees. But it is distinct in nearly every way. Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island it shares with Irian Jaya, which produces only a token amount of coffee itself. Its a world away from Java or Sumatra, geographically, culturally, and in most aspects of coffee production. The multitudinous ethnic groups of PNG share nothing in common with the Bahasa or Batak or Gayo peoples, or the many other Indonesian groups. And the coffee is not wet-hulled as many Indonesia coffees are; they are wet-processed, which might sound similar in name but is remarkably different in terms of the resulting cup flavors.

The coffee growing areas occupy one continuous mountain chain but are distinguished as "Eastern Highland" coffees and "Western Highland" coffees. The Eastern area would be centered around the town of Kainantu, and the trade of the Western area goes through the mills in Goroka, where coffee growing is centered around Mount Hagen town.

There are many small-holder farms in PNG that are best characterized as "coffee gardens." A "farmer" might have 100 trees planted around their house. It also describes the casual nature of coffee farming. There isn't much incentive on the part of a farmer, at small or large level, to take coffee very seriously. Why? First, in this extremely fertile land, nearly any stick you poke in the ground will grow. Growing crops for local sale or for home consumption is not difficult; there isn't a food deficit in PNG and there is little need for a cash crop to buy food with.

Perhaps more importantly is the completely screwy economy of the area. PNG has been described as a "mountain of gold, floating on a sea of oil". You might also add that it is bubbling with natural gas, since there is a 6 billion dollar NG project in construction. With an ultra-rugged terrain and a lack of roads connecting these mineral rich zones, everything is flown or helicopter-ed around the country. The companies investing here open their wallets to get these rich returns, and jobs in transportation or mining or such can pay 100k a year easily. If you actually want to work that is. Because the culture in PNG, still very tribal in most ways, seems to dictate the values of the people more than economic gain. There are still frequent inter-tribal skirmishes, and given that within an hours drive, you might have passed through the lands of 2 or 3 ethnic groups who don't even speak the same root language and might have a past of deep mistrust, it is exceedingly difficult to organize farmers here and to build trust or get cooperation.

With the big money from multinationals floating around, everything is lopsided. For example, a hotel room in the modest capital of Port Moresby might set you back $600 to $800. And in a small interior town, where in a country in Central America I might pay $30 for a room, in PNG it is $300, if you can even get one.

Aside from small-holder farmers who will often sell their coffee cherry to a wet-mill, there are large plantations in PNG. The coffee growing side of the businesses was dominated by the Carpenter Family, who also had vast tea growing lands. They had the well-known Sigri farm as well as some smaller ones. Lately the operation seems to have been sold to a multi-national company. Other coffees known in the US are basically brands, not farms. Kimel is a large farm that also buys from surround growers and sells it under the same name.

Some of the seedstock on Papua New Guinea is from the Jamaican Blue Mountain variety of Typica, with the Arusha Typica varietal from Tanzania. Some are more modern hybrids or the Indian "Kent" varietal. There is also a lot of classic Bourbon coffee too. The main problems in PNG come with poor coffee processing and poor dry-milling. I visited one of the major dry mills in Goroka and they had cranked up their mechanical dryers to get coffee shipped as quick as possible. This created quite a bit of smoke in the process, tainting their stock of green coffee in jute bags. Indeed everything we cupped tasted smoked.

In small mills, the mixing of unripe coffee cherry with ripe coffee cherry is common. Coffee is treated as it is in the commodity trade, without separating different qualities. Much of the processing equipment is old British type as found in Kenya; McKinnon and John Gordon, great old stuff that can still produce great coffee. They use disc pulpers and grade the coffee for size on the spot, and some farms even use the Kenya two stage fermentation method. But you might often see the coffee dried poorly, laid out on plastic sheets when the patios or drying beds are full, and then soaked when the rains come. This coffee has such great potential, and in the hands of those who know how to work with the environment, the results can be stellar when everything is done right.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
Papua New Guinea Baroida Estate
Appearance.4 d/300gr, 17-18 Screen
GradeA/X
ProcessingWet Process Style Machine Washed
RegionEastern Highlands
Varietal(s)Arusha, Bourbon, Typica
RoastCity+ to Full City+. A good 48+ hour rest has the nicest fruit and spice aspect
The Baroida Plantation, located in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, was founded by Ben Colbran in the 1960s. Ben first purchased the land from a native man named Taro and they were amongst the first people to cultivate crops in these valleys. In 1965, the government encouraged the early settlers to start growing coffee as a long-term sustainable crop. Ben started to plant coffee trees becoming one of the first coffee producers of the Eastern Highlands The Colbran Family is now in its third generation with Ben’s son Nichol and grandson Chris running Baroida plantation. Through either luck or good design, the Baroida plantation sits at the apex of the Lamari river valley and Mount Jabarra range. The plantation itself is at about 1700 meters amongst thousands of hectares of cleared land with former colonial coffee estates surrounding them (now run by native landowners) and flanked by mountains (up to 2300 meters) filled with small holder coffee producers. I visited last season, which was a large crop but a difficult one too. All the coffee came in a short time span, and the drying of parchment from the smallholder neighbors that the Colbrans buy from did not seem good, in my opinion. That is why this lot, from their own farm, seemed to have better picking and processing, since it is all done under the control of the estate. This coffee is fruit-forward both aromatically and in the cup. The dry fragrance has a hint of rose, along with ripe fruits, saturated sweetness, and heads toward tropical. There's some spiced notes in there too with a touch of cinnamon and mace. The spice and fruit aspects shift in the wet grounds toward Syrah, with a spiced plum characteristic. Fruity chocolate (like Scharfenberger) and jam/preserves come up off the break. The fruit in the cup is definitely "bold" but sweet, and again goes toward tropical. There's strawberry and plum, as well as guava, and papaya. We tasted cola at darker roast levels that with the fruityness is a bit like Dr Pepper. There's a citrus quality to this coffee reminiscent of kumquat or overripe lemon. Baroida finishes with citrus zest and cocoa, especially deeper roasts. City roast may be a little too light for this coffee and brings about a slightly drying aspect at the tip of your tongue. I think City+ to Full City+ helps to stabilize the profile a bit. Allowing this coffee to rest 48 hours or more tones down the fruit without compromising the sugar content.