Many people would associate Papua New Guinea’s coffees with those from Indonesia, but there’s quite a difference.
The history of coffee production started relatively late. Coffee was planted in the 1890s, but it was not treated as a commercial product. However, in 1926, 18 estates were established using seeds from Jamaica’s Blue Mountain, and by 1928 coffee production had begun in earnest.
The industry started more and more structured growth in the 1950s. Further growth followed in the 1970s, perhaps because of Brazil’s drop back in production. The government-sponsored program encouraged small farms to be taken over by cooperatives. At that time the industry was more focused on well-managed estates.
Today 95 percent of the total production comes from smallholders. Almost, all the coffee they make is Arabica. This means a very large proportion of the locals are involved, especially in the highland regions, where the circumstances are better. This has created some challenges when it comes to producing high-quality coffee. Many producers do not have access to adequate facilities after harvest, and the lack of product traceability prevents clear rewards for high-quality coffee.
Although coffee production in Papua New Guinea only took hold in the 20th century, it is now a strong industry.
Coffee offered in Amsterdam was sold at high prices, with 1 kg (2 lb) costing almost one percent of the average annual income. There is no long history of traceability, and in the past, some farms bought coffee from other producers to pass as their own. The idea to sell coffees by region is quite new. However, the altitude and soil change in some places offer great potential for quality, so there has been renewed interest from the specialty market in the last few years. Look out for coffees traceable to a specific estate or a group of producers.
Exports are classified according to quality, in descending order: AA, A, X, PSC, and Y. The first three mark estate coffees, while the last two are for coffees from smallholders. PSC is standing from Premium Smallholder Coffee.
The coffee from Papua New Guinea often has a buttery quality, but great sweetness and wonderful complexity.