Papua New Guinea Coffee: What You Need to Know
Papua New Guinea coffees are in many ways untamed and unpredictable. If you manage to bridle these peppy beans, however, you can expect some wildly pleasant brews in your future.
Here’s our rundown on PNG coffee, from its unique flavor profile to the coffee industry as a whole on the diverse Pacific island nation.
Facts About Papua New Guinea Coffee Beans
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|Peet’s New Guinea Highlands||
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|Centri Organic Papua New Guinea Siane Chimbu||
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|Out of the Grey Engora Papua New Guinea||
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In our Papua New Guinea coffee review, we’ll break down the history of PNG coffee, what it tastes like, and a few other interesting facts that make these beans so special.
PNG Coffee Heritage
Papua New Guinea is an island nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. As is the case for many coffee-growing countries, the coffees grown in the Papua New Guinea highlands are the most popular, as the best coffees tend to grow at higher altitudes.
In PNG, though, these higher altitudes are also marked by an excellent climate for growing coffee, as well as very fertile volcanic soil, making those areas by far the most desirable growing regions.
The first coffee plants were introduced to the island (1) during the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1920s-1930s that the industrial production of coffee beans really began to thrive.
From there it was a series of ups and downs, from boom times thanks to other coffee nations struggling, to struggles during global coffee price depressions (2). But through it all, the nation’s scattered and somewhat helter-skelter coffee industry has continued to produce some of the wildest, most exciting coffee the world has ever seen.
The Flavor Profile of Papua New Guinea Coffee Beans
This overview wouldn’t be complete without some Papua New Guinea coffee tasting notes!
While it’s similar in many ways to other coffees grown in the region (think Java, Sulawesi, and Sumatra) there is a uniqueness to the Papua New Guinea coffee flavor profile.
It is often described as less earthy and more bright and acidic, with a slight “apple wineyness (3)” that stands out from the competition.
PNG coffee taste:
- Aroma: Mango and papaya fruitiness (4)
- Taste: Unpredictable; floral, sweet, apple wine, somewhat acidic, clean, full-bodied… did we say unpredictable?
- Aftertaste: Low-key, deep
Local Growing and Processing Method
Much of the coffee grown on PNG is located on small-scale farms from 4,000 to over 6,000 ft. above sea level. These farms grow a fairly random variety of coffee cherries that are processed in various “homegrown” methods. In other words, in whatever way the farmers choose.
The only constants appear to be the harvest time, which is in late spring and early to mid-summer, and the processing method, which tends to be some variation of the wet process method.
But on the larger and more established farms and estates, the process is better controlled, bringing consistency to the crops.
This variation in small- to large-scale growing quality has led to an inconsistency in the quality of beans coming from PNG. Coffee from the smaller farmers tends to be hard to predict, while the larger estates have more control and thus more stability in quality and flavor.
Starbucks and PNG
Did you know that several Papua New Guinea Starbucks Coffees have been made available over the last few years?
Not only that, but Starbucks has been actively working through their Starbucks Reserve program to help boost the overall quality of PNG coffee beans… as well as the farmers’ livelihoods.
Some of the Major Growing Regions of PNG
The major coffee-growing region of Papua New Guinea is based around a single, large expanse of mountains located towards the center of the island.
Together, these highland provinces are responsible for 75% of all the coffee grown on Papua New Guinea, and produce the bulk of the coffee sold overseas in places like North America.
There is also the smaller, lower region of Simbu located between these that produces some coffee, though it is less in quantity and tends to be lower quality Robusta beans compared to the overwhelmingly Arabica trees that make up the highland region farms.
Farms and coffee plant varietals
Much of Papua New Guinea’s coffee comes from smaller farms, which are little more than small coffee gardens that are left to grow naturally and are harvested when they’re ready. These farms make up a great deal of the nation’s coffee production.
When it comes to the commercial coffee industry, though, it’s the larger estates that tend to take the front seat.
As far as coffee plant varietals go, there are many kinds of coffee plants grown in PNG, including Arusha, Caturra, Bourbon, and Blue Mountain.
Out of the two major growing regions in PNG, it is the Western Highlands specifically that narrowly win the prize of the top coffee production in the country (7).
Blue Mountain coffee plants (8) are predominantly grown in the Western Highlands region.
The seeds of this varietal were directly brought from the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica to the island in the beginning of its coffee history. This coffee is hailed as one of the best coffees from Papua New Guinea.
The Current State of the Papua New Guinea Coffee Industry
Since finding its footing in the early 20th century, the Papua New Guinea coffee industry has both benefited and suffered from countless factors over the decades.
But the truth is, even as we’ve entered the modern era, the coffee industry of the half-island is on anything but firm footing.
Factors like a lack of good infrastructure and the very real threat of thieves (9) carting off the beans before they hit the open market make coffee farming in PNG a truly harrowing feat. Then there’s the very fertile soil, which means lack of food is not as serious a problem here as in other areas of the world.
Without the pressure to grow coffee “to survive,” the need to produce on a large scale just isn’t as pressing an issue.
However, attention and funds have begun to slowly work their way into the PNG coffee industry, helping to improve production and processing as well as to educate the smaller farmers in the nitty-gritty details of the business. It’s an exciting development in a country with an incredible amount of high quality coffee-growing potential.
Best Brew Types for Papua New Guinea Coffee Beans
While coffee from Papua New Guinea can be prepared in a variety of ways with various benefits, a couple of the best options are to use a French press or to make an espresso.
The French press, in particular, both pulls the oils out in full force and allows the fruitier, brighter side to come out to play. This results in an excitingly bold cup of coffee.
Where to Buy Papua New Guinea Beans
If you’re wondering where to buy Papua New Guinea coffee, we have a few suggestions to get you started.
Coming from our favorite source of high quality coffee, Volcanica, these Papua New Guinea beans descend from the original Jamaica Blue Mountain plants brought to the country in the 1920s… and are sure to impress.
Volcanica is an ethically conscious company with a focus on coffee grown at high elevations in fertile volcanic soil. This means that quality is the name of the game with all of their coffees, and these PNG beans are no exception.
Fruity with notes of mango and papaya in the aroma, they also bring a full body and clean taste to the cup.
This option is Fair Trade certified and medium roasted when you order, so you are guaranteed to have the freshest possible PNG coffee arriving at your door.
We give this option a hearty two thumbs up.
Peet’s New Guinea Highlands coffee is a fine example of the unusual connection between the Americas and PNG. The Blue Mountain coffee that has made Jamaica so famous was introduced to the highlands of Papua New Guinea in the 1920s. Here, the rich volcanic soil and unique microclimate provide the perfect environment for getting the most out of these beans.
PNG Blue Mountain has retained the complex characteristics of these original plants. This coffee from Peet’s offers an aromatic cup with herbal notes and full-bodied flavors of tropical jackfruit and chocolate ganache.
The small-scale nature of most farms in PNG means the most sustainable method of buying coffee is through cooperatives. The Siane Organic Agriculture Cooperative, which operates out of Simbu, ensures access to fair prices, assists with community projects, and helps farmers attain organic certification.
This coffee from Centri is a mix of Typica and Bourbon beans grown at 4,400 feet and fully wash processed. It has a clean but robust flavor profile of chocolate and cookies, balanced by some citrus acidity.
The remote location of many farms in the Eastern Highlands provides some challenges for farmers, but it has some benefits in terms of growing coffee. Here, the coffee trees have avoided contact with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and are processed using fresh spring water.
Out of the Grey’s Engora PNG coffee has been sourced through the Highland Organic Agriculture Cooperative, one of the few registered Fair Trade groups in the country. The beans come from the Okupa Valley area, grown at elevations up to 4,900 feet. Expect a brew with a rich, syrupy body with sweet and nutty flavors with a spice finish.
Most Suitable Roast Type for Papua New Guinea Coffee Beans
When it comes to roasting Papua New Guinea coffee, you don’t want to overdo it. Most roasters tend to stop around a medium to medium-dark-level roast.
This can help accentuate the overall balanced flavor profile of the beans, maintain that light and bright element, and bring out the oils for a rich, full cup.
Getting in Touch with Your Wilder Side
Coffee from PNG is simultaneously wild and refined, bringing an unpredictable factor to the table that you can’t get with most other coffees. Its no wonder you’ll often see a bean from this region in best of best coffee bean lists. People can’t get enough of it.
If you’re a fan of adventure, Papua New Guinea coffee is a trip worth taking.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on PNG coffee. Let us know in the comments below!
- History Of Coffee In PNG Retrieved from https://www.cic.org.pg/coffee-in-png/history-of-coffee-in-png/
- The Coffee Crisis — Coffee & Conservation Retrieved from https://www.coffeehabitat.com/2006/02/the_coffee_cris/
- Papua New Guinea Coffee Retrieved from https://www.specialty-coffee-advisor.com/papua-new-guinea-coffee.html
- Papua New Guinea Coffee Beans Retrieved from https://www.coffeeresearch.org/coffee/papuanewguinea.htm
- About Eastern Highlands Province Retrieved From https://www.cic.org.pg/coffee-in-png/coffee-growing-areas/eastern-highlands-province/
- About Western Highlands Province Retrieved From https://www.cic.org.pg/coffee-in-png/coffee-growing-areas/western-highlands-province/
- Coffee In Papua New Guinea | High Quality Coffee Beans Retrieved from https://camanoislandcoffee.com/where-does-your-coffee-come-from-papua-new-guinea/
- Blue Mountain Coffee: From Jamaica to Papua New Guinea – 1335 Frankford Retrieved from https://www.bluemountaincoffee.com/products
- Papua New Guinea Coffee Region – Eclipse Coffee Roasters Retrieved from https://www.ravecoffee.ca/pages/papua-new-guinea-coffee-region