Our continuing series on best coffee nations focuses on Papua New Guinea (PNG), whose coffee is wild with a distinct taste and aroma. Many nations worldwide love to claim the title of best coffee country. When handled well, PNG coffee makes a great brew to fill your cup.
The rich heritage behind Papua New Guinea Coffee
Papua New Guinea, a Pacific island nation, takes up 50% (on the eastern side) of New Guinea.
In the early 19th century, Arabica coffee plants were introduced to Papua New Guinea for the first time. However, industrial production took off from the 1920s to the 30s. In this period, native growers observed that their coffee plants and beans were flourishing like never before.
However, a decade after the boom, depression in global coffee prices began to affect productivity. Since then, PNG has ridden the waves to remain a relevant producer of high-quality and single-origin coffee.
To this day, Arabica highland coffee accounts for 95% of PNG's production, while Robusta accounts for only 5%.
PNG coffees are most notably grown in the highlands, proving again that higher altitudes are ideal for producing the world’s best coffees. Higher altitudes cause coffee to grow slower, allowing for complex flavors (typically in the form of sugar) to form. Papua New Guinea has made its mark in the coffee-growing industry, with the plant being a significant income source and employment for the country.
Papua New Guinea's coffee’s distinctive quality is created by its ideal climate, which remains conducive to coffee growth even at higher altitudes. Coffee requires the following conditions to thrive:
- Availability of a tropical or temperate climate
- Absence of frost
- Adequate soil moisture
- A mix of sun and shade
Papua New Guinea provides this kind of conducive environment for its coffee such a beautiful impatiens (see below). With fertile, volcanic soil, it rubs shoulders with other well-known coffee-producing powerhouses in Central America, South America, and Hawaii.
PNG Coffee flavor and taste
Our series would not be complete without profiling the distinct taste and aroma of this Pacific nation's coffee beans. Most coffee samplers tend to liken coffee from Papua New Guinea to those grown in Sumatra and Java. However, it takes unique mastery to differentiate PNG's less earthy but more acidic taste.
This coffee also tends to be brighter than other darker-colored coffees. Additionally, it has a fruity quality that can be likened to papaya and mango. Its unpredictability can even taste slightly floral with an apple wine flavor. The aftertaste is usually described as profound but subtle.
The subtlety of flavor is what leads us to call our single-origin, medium-roasted PNG coffee our most versatile coffee. It excels as a finely ground pour-over - capturing the uniqueness of the beans - while also serving as an excellent cold brew (rough ground and steeped for 24 hours).
PNG's local growing and processing methods
This Pacific island nation grows most of its coffee plants on small-scale farms. The growers ensure these coffee farms range from 4000 feet and beyond, above sea level. Although Arabica coffee is the mainstay, Papua New Guinea allows its local growers to plant coffee cherries of random varietals freely.
Many farmers utilize one of many local processing methods, which vary from one local grower to the other. Our PNG coffee is fully washed and sun-dried.
Papua New Guinea Medium Roast Coffee
Story of the Roast This coffee is a sweet, medium roast grown in the mountains on the eastern half of the island nation of Papua New Guinea. It can have a bit more oils than coffee from South and Central America...read more
The differences in small and large-scale growing methods birthed a variation in quality beans produced in Papua New Guinea. For buyers who purchase from small-scale farmers, the coffee tends to vary in flavor and quality that can require more diligence on the part of the buyer. However, there’s consistency and a predictable standard for controlled larger farms.
Is a single vast expanse of mountains responsible for growing PNG Coffee?
75% of all coffee grown in Papua New Guinea comes from a single, vast stretch of mountains. This single mountain chain can be found towards the Pacific island's center. The majority of coffee sold to the US, Germany, and Australia is sourced from this region.
These highlands are grouped into two central provinces, namely:
- Eastern Highland Province – Focused around Goroka and Kainantu
- Western Highland Province – Mount Hagen
The Morobe and Jiwaka Provinces are two other significant growing areas but without much clout as the significant two listed above. Worth mentioning is the Simbu region, which lies between the eastern and western provinces. Being a smaller and lower altitude region, it focuses on Robusta coffee beans.
Interesting facts about Papua New Guinea's Coffee
Did you know that coffee production in this area is the second-largest export in Agric? It comes directly after palm oil and employs about 2.5 million people in this nation.
Another interesting fact you may not have known is that this tiny Pacific island coffee nation accounts for 1% of the world's production. That sheds some light on why 75% of its coffee produced goes out of the country. Papua New Guinea’s hard work pays off on the global stage.
Interestingly, small-scale coffee gardens are responsible for 85% of total production in the whole of Papua New Guinea. These are described as gardens and not farms due to their diminutive size.
In many coffee gardens, the plants are left to grow naturally, without much tending, and only harvested when ready. Many natives engage in it as a commercialized hobby.
Nonetheless, larger estates have a front seat in Papua New Guinea's commercial coffee industry. The plant varieties popular in this country are:
- Blue Mountain
- Mundo Novo
These are all varieties of the Arabica coffee plant.
Is Papua New Guinea Coffee the best?
Coffee preference is unique to you. People have different taste buds and biases that influence what they consume in a steamy cup of coffee. While PNG coffee can vary across producers, the right one can be heavy in a cup. Indeed, you can’t go wrong with island coffee from any of these PNG’s mountain regions.