Timeline & Production
1926 — 18 Estates established themselves as coffee producing farms
1928 — An experimental plot of Arabica was planted at the Department of Agriculture
1970’s — Government sponsored growth in the region sparked smallholders and estates to flourish
1980’s — Decentralization of coffee growing programs gave more freedom to smallholders in their control over the crop.
2010’s — Quality and Traceability becomes a priority with increasing demands in the global specialty market.
Importers with quality driven buying power, like Mercanta and Cafe Imports, encourage a trend in transparency in cultivation and production. Establishment of estates and processing facilities, especially in the Eastern Highlands comes primarily from foreign investors who invest in equipment and land that then produces high quality product that the investor can utilize. This type of international investment has provided some regions with an advantage, especially in “underdeveloped” areas.
Regions and Quality
Coffee is the primary aggregate product of Papua New Guinea. Most farming households have at least a small plot dedicated to coffee. This widespread cultivation of coffee is what makes up a production that is primarily composed of smallholders. Often times, private farms will not have the processing equipment needed to dry and store coffee. Smallholders might sell small amounts of coffee to private processing facilities. As processing companies acquire coffee that is often times not selected based on elevation, growing technique, and variety, coffee grown by smallholders can trend toward inconstancy and poor quality. However, there are also positive aspects of this type of collection and production. A mix of varieties can easily contribute to a combination of flavors and characteristics that brilliantly represent the diversity of the region. Like Ethiopian Heirloom varietals, indiscriminate mixtures and variations can produce an amazing coffee even if it is not always consistent.
Papua New Guinea has three main growing regions: Eastern Highlands, Western Highlands, and the Simbu Province. Both Highland Regions are expansive (for the size of the country) and reach high elevations of 1800-1900m. Most estates are established in the Eastern Highlands (EH). Coffee is more easily traceable here because the EH region produces fewer, higher quality coffees compared to the Western Highlands. The Western Highlands produce larger quantities of coffee from a larger number of less established farms. Many of these farms sell their coffee cherries to a processing facility for fermenting, washing, and drying.
Upcoming Coffee from Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an up and coming producer for specialty coffees around the world. Coffee from this region tends to have a buttery body with sweet complexity. Chocolate and ripe citrus notes are not uncommon from this region. Three varieties dominate farms in PNG. A highly graded combination of Typica, Arusha, and Bourbon is currently accessible through importers.
Cartel currently offers the Atauwauka:
"Atauwauka is a private processor that buys coffee from a network of small farms around the Unggai mountain range in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. John Mek, the owner, sources and washes Typica, Arusha, Bourbon, and Mundo Novo varieties grown between 1600 and 2000 meters above sea level. Papua New Guinea coffees are often lumped into the Indonesian region, however, things like quality control, terroir, and differing coffee varieties ensure uniqueness from the archipelago.” —Paul Haworth, Head Roaster