Papua New Guinea is a relative minnow in the grand scheme of global coffee production, accounting for just 1% of the world’s exports. That being said, some fantastic quality coffees are grown in Papua New Guinea. Coffee is the country’s second largest export (after oil palm); the industry employs more than two million people, and covers around 87,000 hectares of the country. Coffee cultivation hasn’t always been a pastime in this part of the world – with the crop only being brought here in 1937, in the form of the Jamaican ‘Blue Mountain’ Arabica varietal which still accounts for much of Papua New Guinea’s coffee output.
The country is something of a frontier, especially when compared with established names like Ethiopia and Kenya. Commercial production took off here in the early 20th century, but since then its fortunes have been mixed. Weather conditions in Brazil during the 70s saw it experience an unexpected boom, while the 90s saw a slump in global prices that made production here challenging.
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Who grows coffee in Papua New Guinea?
While the bigger names in world coffee might come with industries built on foundations laid by colonialists, Papua New Guinea’s roots are a great deal more bottom-up. The vast bulk of production is the work of smallholders, each of whose holdings are tiny by the standards of East Africa, with some containing just a few dozen trees.
Consequently, Papua New Guinea’s strength is the quality, rather than the quantity, of its output. Each smallholder is free to develop their crop in the way that they feel will produce the best results. On the other hand, farmers in this part of the world must contend with poor infrastructure, most notably in the substandard rural road system, lack of law and order, and political instability.
How are these coffee farmers supported?
Fortunately, many schemes have been initiated over the past decade that have helped to super-charge production, and help farmers here to realise the potential of the landscape. These include efforts by the Coffee Industry Corporation to provide research and support to smallholders, as well as incentives to maintain sustainable practices, and thereby ensure the industry’s long-term prosperity.
Artificial fertilisers and other aids are beyond the budget of most of the country’s smallholders, who must instead rely on more natural methods. This is evident in the flavour of the resultant product, which helps to distinguish Guinean coffees from their counterparts on other continents. You’ll tend to find a weightier coffee that’s naturally lower in caffeine, and which lacks the sharp acidity found in East African specimens.
Coffee here is typically wet-washed, which results in a transparent and refreshing flavour. You’ll find less of a body than you might in neighbouring Indonesia, but there’s also a mild and subtle balance of bright and sweet notes that’s quite unlike anything else in the world. Production of the best Arabica centres on the island’s central region, surrounding Mt. Hagen, where farmers are able to take advantage of higher altitude and mineral-rich volcanic soil. The conditions help make possible the range of great coffees you’ll find on this page.
If You Like Papua New Guinea Coffee, Give These A Try…
If Papua New Guinea coffee is a favourite and you’d like to explore coffees from similar growing regions, try the following: