Home to over 800 languages & 1,000 distinct ethnic groups, a dazzling variety of flora & fauna and a geography that ranges from mangrove swamps to towering moss-forests, Papua New Guinea is a country of outstanding diversity, quite unlike anywhere else on earth.
A relatively new coffee producing country, it’s estimated that the industry now supports nearly half of the island’s population; a unifying commodity bringing together communities & tribes that would otherwise remain isolated and cut-off from the wider world. But what is it that makes the coffee of Papua New Guinea so special?
Papua New Guinea’s natural climate & geography is perfect for growing coffee. The Eastern Highlands, from which most of the country’s coffee is produced (and our Grand Edition is from), is a mountainous region populated by swathes of dense forest, interspersed with steep valleys and deep-running waterways.
Whilst this terrain isn’t particularly suited for large-scale farming, it’s perfectly set up for organic coffee production, as the combination of a well-watered climate, altitude & the fertile, mineral-rich soils means crops can be grown without the need for artificial fertilisers and chemicals.
This lack of space in PNG’s highlands means that coffee production has to be, by necessity, a small-scale affair. Over 85% of the coffee produced is done so through small-hold farming, with many villages coming together and looking after crops that are sometimes made up of no more than half a dozen bushes, with communities taking great pride in their plants and the harvest.
As cared for as they are, these village-gardens keep fruiting for much longer than your usual crop, with many plants still producing cherries at well over two decades old. Because of their age a lot less fruit is produced per plant, and whilst at first glance this may seem counterproductive, it is this peculiarity that has given PNG coffee one of its most distinctive traits.
A smaller yield means that each berry has a much higher concentration of sugar than you would find in a younger plant, which naturally gifts PNG coffee with a sweetness of flavour and finish that has become recognised worldwide, and one of the main reasons why the coffee that comes out of this country is so highly-prized.
Considering how important coffee is to PNG’s economy, it is sometimes startling to see how poorly-equipped the country is to move & process this cash-rich crop. With nearly 40% of the population currently living under the National Poverty Line, Papua New Guinea is not a rich country, and investment in this kind of infrastructure is hard to come by.
A lack of navigable roads mean that producers often face a huge journey just to get their 2 or 3 sacks of coffee to the Ukuk highway, which is the main artery through which PNG’s goods travel.
Even then, the journey is not easy, and it is not uncommon for these coffee-laden trucks having to contend with landslides, potholes, and even armed groups of bandits on the lookout for an easy target.
Nothing about this coffee is simple. From the remote nature of its farmers to the difficulties in getting it to market, it often seems like everything is against it. But against these odds, we have a coffee that is celebrated worldwide for its quality and taste - and we’re very excited to be able to bring this to you as our first ever Grand Edition.