Nestled within the rugged landscapes of Papua New Guinea lies the Eastern Highlands, a region known for producing some of the finest specialty coffees in the world. Pronounced as "Pap-yu-a Noo-Gi-nee," this coffee haven is located in the southwestern Pacific, north of Australia. The Eastern Highlands boast altitudes ranging from 1,600 to 2,100 meters above sea level, offering the perfect conditions for coffee cultivation. An interesting fact about Papua New Guinea is that it is home to more than 800 languages, making it one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
Coffee has been a vital part of Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands since the 1920s when the first coffee plantations were established using Arabica seedlings brought from Jamaica's Blue Mountains. In the 1950s, the coffee industry expanded significantly, with smallholder farmers joining in, leading to a boom in coffee production. Today, coffee is one of the country's major agricultural exports, contributing significantly to the national economy and providing livelihoods for over 2.5 million people.
The Eastern Highlands are characterized by smallholder coffee farms, with more than 85% of the coffee produced by these farmers. Most farms are between 1 to 2 hectares in size and are family-owned, passed down through generations. The coffee trees are often grown alongside other crops such as vegetables and fruits, promoting biodiversity and contributing to a healthier ecosystem.In Papua New Guinea, the most common processing method for coffee is the wet or washed process. This involves removing the cherry skin and pulp from the beans, followed by fermentation to break down the remaining mucilage. The beans are then washed and sun-dried on raised beds or patios. This method is known to produce coffees with a clean and bright flavor profile. However, the exact processing methods can vary from farm to farm, and some farmers may also use the dry or natural process, wherein the coffee cherries are dried with the fruit still intact.
Coffees from the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea are renowned for their complex and unique flavor profiles. They often exhibit fruity and floral notes such as red berries, citrus, and jasmine, combined with a rich, chocolatey undertone. The acidity is typically bright and sparkling, akin to that of a crisp white wine, while the body is medium to full, providing a well-rounded and satisfying mouthfeel. These coffees are also known for their exceptional balance and lingering, sweet finish, making them a favorite among specialty coffee enthusiasts.
While there may not be specific well-known farms or farmers to mention, the collective efforts of the smallholder farmers in the Eastern Highlands have put this region on the global specialty coffee map. Their dedication to preserving traditional farming methods, combined with a willingness to adopt new processing techniques, has resulted in some truly remarkable coffees that are enjoyed by connoisseurs worldwide. The Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea may be remote, but their coffees are certainly worth seeking out for anyone who appreciates a unique and delicious cup.