You may have heard about coffee that is produced in a wide range of different countries including Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and even Tanzania. But did you know that coffee is also produced in Papua New Guinea, a small island country that is located between Australia and Indonesia? Read on to discover more about Papua New Guinea coffee including how these beans are produced, the history of the coffee industry in this country, and which brewing methods work best for the coffee beans PNG.
About Papua New Guinea Coffee
Jamaican Blue Mountain were the original coffee plants when coffee officially first arrived in Papua New Guinea. These coffee beans are Arabica, the most popular type of coffee bean around the world, known for natural sweetness and delicate flavors. However, the growing process for Arabica beans can be a little more challenging. Currently, around 95% of the coffee from Papua New Guinea is Arabica, with Robusta making up 5% of the beans grown here. Robusta beans are cheaper and have a more bitter taste and tend to be used for instant coffee.
In comparison to other coffee-producing countries that tend to have mountainous farmlands or huge coffee plantations, most of the coffee that you can get from PNG comes from small lots and is selectively grown. Local farmers will plant small numbers of coffee plants – sometimes just ten to twenty plants at a time, which is tiny compared to other countries such as Brazil, for example, where you will find huge coffee plots.
Once the coffee beans are ready to be harvested, they will be handpicked and wet processed, which separates the beans from the coffee fruit or cherry. This method of processing, combined with the growing location of the beans, gives PNG coffee a unique flavor profile that is very popular among premium coffee drinkers. When you drink this coffee, the pride that the local farmers take in their small batches of coffee is immediately noticeable.
The flavor profile of Papua New Guinea coffee beans is distinct, which is mostly thanks to the soil that they are grown in, which is very dense in nutrients. They have a bright, citrusy flavor with floral and chocolate notes that make for a very smooth coffee. In the surrounding regions, the coffee tends to have an earthier and deeper taste, making the coffee from PNG a different and refreshing change. The wet processing method that is used to separate the coffee beans from the coffee cherries also influences the final result.
The Coffee Industry in Papua New Guinea
Coffee is a hugely important part of many different countries and cultures around the world, but particularly in countries that have the ideal conditions for growing coffee plants. When it comes to coffee production in PNG, this country is the seventeenth-largest producer of coffee around the world. Over time, coffee in this country has had many ups and downs, which have led to its rank on the world coffee producers chart.
When and how coffee arrived in PNG is not very clear since there are multiple sources that all claim different dates and responsible parties for bringing coffee here. The most widely known story about the origin of coffee in this country is that it was brought over by German settlers during Papua New Guinea’s colonization, in the late nineteenth century. However, there is no official record of this, and another claim suggests that it was brought over at around the same time by British settlers instead –there is no evidence to back this up.
However, regardless of how coffee actually arrived in this country, there was no official documented production of coffee in the country until the 1920s, in Sangara, a settlement in southeast PNG, which was home to a range of plantations and coffee farms. Coffee from PNG had become fully commercialized by 1928. Fast-forward to the 1960s and 1970s, and many of the top-producing coffee countries around the world had a particularly bad harvest, leading to production rising in PNG.
By the 1990s, the coffee production in PNG head reached new heights, and was almost half of the total revenue of exported agricultural products. Since then, however, the production of this coffee has been on a downward trend for a variety of reasons, including the price of coffee. Despite the growing interest in artisan coffee around the world over the last decade and the introduction of products such as Papua New Guinea Starbucks single origin coffee, the current level of coffee production in PNG today is only at half of what it was in the 90s.
Currently, Papua New Guinea ranks seventeen when it come to the top coffee producing countries in the world. In 2019, it produced a total annual amount of 110,000,000 pounds, which equates to around eight hundred thousand 60kg bags of coffee. Much of the production comes from smaller farm lots after the decline of coffee production commercialization, which has led to a low annual yield. This decline was a result of the cost of coffee decreasing around the world, which made it difficult, if not impossible for farmers to grow large volumes of coffee in an affordable way. Today, most of the coffee farming is done on a smaller scale and is used to help support the local farmers.
Challenges of Growing Coffee in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a country that has enjoyed a lot of peace over the decades and there has not been any severe oppression, but this doesn’t mean that this country hasn’t seen hard times – although most of the struggles have been internal. After all, this is a country made up of local tribes with over eight hundred different languages spoken, so it’s no surprise that some of the struggles and conflicts between them have led to issues in the coffee industry.
Today, around 95% of the coffee producers in PNG are smallholders. They are often small family farms or even family gardens that grow coffee plants alongside other crops including legumes, bananas, and papaya. Some of the infrastructures in this country has begun to collapse over time, which has made moving coffee more expensive and more difficult for the small coffee farmers. Only 55% of the population has access to a telephone, and an even smaller number have access to the internet, at just 10%. However, the one upside to this is that due to the lack of connectivity in this country, the coffee from PNG tends to be grown without any agrochemicals or pesticides, with almost all coffee grown organically, and quite a lot of Certified Organic coffee is produced here.
Due to the internal challenges that the country has faced, it now only produces a small one percent of coffee in the world, however, coffee generates income for a huge forty percent of the population in PNG. It is not just important to the culture; coffee is also a huge economic driver here. However, unfortunately, it just isn’t growing like it should. Since 2000, the price of coffee beans has hit a plateau, which has impacted the coffee industry in PNG and prevented it from growing.
Best Ways to Brew Papua New Guinea Coffee
If you want to try coffee from PNG for yourself, you might be wondering how to brew this coffee for the best results. PNG coffee can be enjoyed in a wide range of ways and will work well with any brewing method that you decide to use. However, it is particularly enjoyable when brewed using the following methods:
Drip Brew: A classic drip brew coffee maker is an ideal choice for PNG coffee since it offers a good middle ground between the bolder flavor and acidity. When choosing your PNG coffee beans, a medium roast is the best option to consider if you want to use a drip coffee maker.
Pour Over Coffee: Pour-over is often thought to be the ideal choice for bringing out the delicious citrusy tones of PNG coffee. When prepared using this method, the natural acidity of PNG coffee will be brightened, without taking any of the lighter floral notes away.
Cold Brew Coffee: Cold brewing is also an ideal choice for those who want to enjoy coffee from Papua New Guinea. This method of brewing does not have the same acidity levels compared to drip coffee or pour-over coffee but does bring out tasty, deeper chocolate notes. A darkly roasted PNG coffee blend is the best choice for this type of brewing.
While Papua New Guinea is not a huge producer of coffee around the world and only produces one percent of global coffee today, the coffee that originates here is mostly organic, 100% Arabica coffee, and definitely worth trying. Compared to nearby coffee-growing areas, PNG coffee has a brighter, lighter flavor and is an ideal choice for cold brew, drip coffee, and pour over coffee. You can buy it from several independent roasters or larger chains such as Starbucks.