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Coffee History in Papua New Guinea

Coffee History in Papua New Guinea

There are a few theories when it comes to sourcing a coffee’s true history, and the coffee history in Papua New Guinea has a varied and colorful ancestry, which perhaps, is why it’s taste is so unique. At some point, it is said that a Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee plant is part of the birth, but other sources point elsewhere since it involves German New Guinea and British Papua.

According to Coffee Industry Corporation, in the late 1800’s it is said Queen Emma, along with a botanist Richard Parkinson  that coffee was grown in German New Guinea at Ralum in the Kokopo district of East New Britain Province. In Papua,  coffee was introduced in 1885 by catholic missionaries on Yule Island and Tapini area. These plantings were mostly for botanical and scientific purposes,  but it is said a large Robusta plantation was growing between 1920-1930. In 1928 Arabica was planted at the colonial Department of Agriculture’s experimental station at Wau in Morobe only to be sold to a German entrepreneur, Carl L.B.Wilde. Wilde had developed roasted and ground coffee from this crop and this is where the first seeds for Papua New Guinea Coffee Came from.

According to  Mercanta – He named the plantation “Blue Mountain Coffee” and it is from this plantation that most of Papua New Guinea’s Coffee came from. From the “Blue Mountain plantation”, the coffee was carried to a colonial research station in the valley of Aiyura in the Eastern Highlands. Over the years, the station distributed seeds throughout the highlands, and it was from these beginnings that coffee – finding itself in a climate and terrain perfect for its development – truly made the majestic highland country of Papua New Guinea its home.

Further commercial coffee production began in 1925-1930 which is where Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee (The actual coffee from Jamaica) enters the picture, according to Wikipedia. There are also sources that date the seedlings were brought sometime in the 1930’s. The main types of Arabicas known to be growing  include Jamaica Blue Mountain, Catimor, Caturra, and a hybrid Mundo Novo.  So based on the information we have, the coffee history in Papua New Guinea is diverse to say the least, but it was the beginning of what we know as P.N.G. Coffee. There is a likeness in terms of a slight chocolaty aroma and taste which is found in Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, which would support this theory.

By 1960, the country boasted more than 4,000 hectares of Arabica coffee. Soon after Papua New Guinea became an independent, self-governing nation. In the 1970’s, Brazil experienced a disastrous frost that put large sections of the country’s coffee industry out of business for several years. This was a great boom for the country’s budding coffee industry. However, by the late 80’s the drop in coffee prices saw the collapse of the large plantations with only the small shareholders who owned their own land and had low operating costs were left to survive.

Highland Landscape Between Mount Hagen and Enya, Highlands, Papua New Guinea

The next years in the coffee history in Papua New Guinea saw struggles in production that dealt with limited infrastructure, inconsistent processing methods, and lack of education and support. The small shareholders were responsible for most of the coffee production and were responsible for putting out 38% of Papua new Guinea’s agricultural exports in 1998. The majority of the coffee is grown in the highlands, 1500 feet above sea level where 70% of the population is dependent on agriculture. Better systems have been set in to place to get the coffee cherries to the processor so the crops do not go unsold.

Today, more strict methods are in place to oversee processing and help sustain the 2.5 million people employed in the industry that includes 280,000 smallholder coffee growers, 660 larger farmers cultivating areas of 1–30 hectares (2.5–74.1 acres), 65 large plantations, 18 registered exporters, 51 registered processors and over 6,000 roadside buyers.

Coffee form Papua New Guinea has a natural low acidity. Hints of chocolate and  full-bodied flavor with a pungent fruitiness of mango and papaya make this a very enjoyable cup!

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