Origin Deep Dive: Papua New Guinea
Coffee production in Papua New Guinea is a relatively young industry, with 1926 being the agreed-upon year when the first Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee seeds were introduced to the south-eastern region of the country. Without the roots of colonial plantations dating back centuries as many other coffee-producing countries have endured, the structure of production in Papua New Guinea has differed drastically from its global counterparts. Coffee is mostly grown on tiny plots of land amongst small lot farmer’s other crops, some plots containing as few as 20 trees. Today Papua New Guinea coffee helps to support approximately 3.3 million people, just over 40% of the country’s population.
With better access to mills and exporters in the late 1960s and 70s due to large-scale development, the country was able to produce high-quality coffee at a much faster rate. The shortage of Brazilian coffee in the mid-70s led to an increased interest in Papua New Guinea as a producing country. Production peaked in 1998, making coffee 42% of the country’s agricultural export revenue. Since then, however, the country’s production has struggled. Affected by the plummet of global coffee prices, degrading infrastructure, and other factors, production volume has been in decline for most of the last 20 years. Between 2012 and 2016, Papua New Guinea’s total share of the global coffee market was nearly halved, from 1% down to 0.53%.
As the country focuses on quality over quantity, specialty roasters looking to form meaningful partnerships with origins have taken an interest. They’ve invested in farms and farmers to help grow relationships and communities to better take care of the crops in a country that has long been hailed as a high-quality producer of unique and flavourful coffee. As of 2018, the country has started to trend upward once more in both the quantity of coffee being produced and the quality at which it is being scored, leading to renewed interest from the global coffee market.
Papua New Guinea coffees are most often wet-processed. Thanks to the country’s more distinct and naturally fertile soil, coffees tend to be sweeter and cleaner than many other producers in the Southeastern coffee belt, which lean towards earthier and spicier flavours. The acidity tends to be clean and crisp like citrus, with a rich and chocolatey body and notes of tropical fruit throughout.