A relative newcomer to the specialty coffee scene, Papua New Guinea faces unique challenges in showcasing their coffee to the world — but those who have tasted the best the country has to offer know of its enormous potential.

History of Coffee in Papua New Guinea

The introduction of coffee to Papua New Guinea isn’t as clear-cut as many other coffee-producing regions. A mix of German colonists introducing coffee to the Northern parts of the island in the late 17th century, and the British cultivating crops in the South has resulted in some confusion. 

What is known for sure is that the first coffee planted on the island was the coveted Jamaica Blue Mountain arabica. This is in contrast to the widely grown robusta throughout Indonesia to the West, which was quite popular at the time. Exports first began gaining traction in the 1920s due to the incredibly fertile soil which produced flavour that can't be found elsewhere in the coffee-growing world. 

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, improved infrastructure enabled Papua New Guinea’s coffee industry to flourish. Colonial plantations excelled with superior harvesting methods, processing facilities and exporting relationships, contributing to the boom of high-quality coffee coming from PNG. This boost in recognition resulted in the Papua New Guinea coffee industry expanding to employ over 2.5 million people (almost half the population). 

After independence (1975), the old plantations were divided among local tribes and communities, and the coffee exported from the small-holder farms began to dip in quality as the supporting infrastructure declined in availability. With a lack of transparent leadership, the PNG coffee industry fell into obscurity for a time.

Papua New Guinea Coffee Production

Today, the bulk of Papua New Guinean coffee is produced by smallholder farms on lots smaller than two hectares in size. More akin to homely gardens, these smallholder farms are widely dispersed on the island. With a significant lack of infrastructure such as roads, logistics have often stood in the way of PNG coffee becoming a household name around the world — it has, historically, been a true challenge to export coffee from the highland regions where it's produced.  

Around 95% of the coffee grown in Papua New Guinea is arabica. Produced between 700 — 2,200 masl., most coffee grows in dense forests providing ample cover from the elements for arabica plants to grow slowly and flourish. Thanks to this shade cover, coffee cherries ripen very slowly in high altitudes which allows for increased flavour development. The main five regions of production include the Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Morobe, Simbu and East Sepik. 

It's said that anything planted in the rich soils of Papua New Guinea will flourish happily. The volcanic soil of PNG is incredibly diverse, producing coffee that is sweet and smooth with complex aromas and medium chocolate body. 

With improved infrastructure, more smallholder farms will be able to export their coffee and showcase the potential of this unique origin.

Coffee Processing

Thanks to its hot, humid and tropical climate, Papua New Guinea has a reliable supply of water for processing coffee. Most coffee produced in the highlands is delivered to local stations as cherry before being transported to processing stations in the East and South to be dried for export. 

Washing coffee removes the cherry and any sticky mucilage from the green bean. With this method, producers rely on soil to impart rich, desirable flavour on the green bean. Thankfully, Papua New Guinea’s volcanic soil is some of the most fertile in the world, imparting smooth, sweet, citrusy and chocolatey flavours on coffee from the region, unlike anything on the nearby islands. 

After the mucilage has been washed off, the drying coffee is typically placed on raised beds in the open air. The beans are left to dry in the sun for up to three weeks, depending on the weather conditions. During this period, the beans are raked and carefully monitored to ensure the beans are dried evenly. The slow and steady drying process allows the beans to develop the distinct flavours and aromas associated with Papua New Guinea coffee. 

The final step in the process is to grade the beans. This involves sorting them according to size and colour, with the best lots sold for a premium as specialty coffee.

Our Producers in PNG

We’ve sourced PNG coffee for quite some time. One notable partnerships is with Kongo Coffee.

Kongo is a well-established business that’s been operating for 30 years. Beginning as a buyer of coffee, they’ve since expanded to become an end-to-end processing mill servicing the Simbu region. The mill employs 130 people across administration, production, and transport.

Primarily purchasing from small-holder farms in the Simbu region, 60% of all farms in the region selling their coffee to the company. Kongo has worked with a mix of Red Bourbon, Typica, and Caturra varietals to develop a "Clean Cup Profile" for their coffee. Initially tailored to suit the Japanese market, this profile is achieved through their processing methods and agricultural recommendations and education to their coffee farmers.

PNG at Allpress

You’ll find a delicious PNG coffee in our A.R.T. Espresso Roast. The PNG component in this blend brings delicious dark cocoa and dry-cooking chocolate flavours to our boldest espresso-roasted coffee. 

From time to time we also showcase the best of Papua New Guinean speciality coffee in Our single origin program, so keep an eye out for the next time this understated origin gets the spotlight.