This is wild wild west PNG coffee versus the Sigri and Kimel which are nice traditional estate models (although still wilder than most farms we would usually think of). Basically, coffee cherries funnel in every day to these operations, farmers and family members pick the cherry from everywhere they can – parks, natural areas, villages, small farms etc… They then bring the cherry to a centralized processing center, who judges the quality of the beans and purchases them assuming the quality is on par. Holds a little different cup profile than the estate coffees but wonderful in its own regard.
This is an A/X grade, organic certified coffee from Kainantu. To this day expert cultivation knowledge largely remains in the possession and experience of PNG’s plantation owners, and remote smallholder coffee tends to fall short of its potential, receiving scarce quality interventions from ambitious millers and exporters. Certain smallholder groups have managed to make a name for themselves, however, by fetching higher prices with better-prepared lots, and keeping communication strong with their exporters despite the geographical and cultural distances.
Tasting Notes: The cup is medium bodied, lower acidity and rich. A little hint of acidity upfront which leaves a little hint of caramel/floral at the lighter roast points but can risk a little earthiness. Anything even into the medium roast range is pretty chocolaty and smooth with just a pinch of a spice note. Darker roasts get a bit fuller bodied and roasty with some nice smoky accents.
Roasting Notes: Easy to roast, a nice processing batch. Roasts fairly even and is tasty at a little fuller roast points. For a milder everyday drinker, a nice stronger medium roast (a little before 2nd crack) is good. Darker roasts (into 2nd crack) get bolder and a little more semi-sweet chocolaty but the roasty notes compliment the cup and darker roast fans will love it.
Konkua is one such group. Kainantu is still a major trading post and consolidation point for coffee from throughout the Eastern Highlands, and the closest urban center to the surrounding highland expanse of villages and smallholder coffee gardeners. Konkua’s coffee comes from smallholder gardens in two districts: Konkua Okipa near Kainantu, and Obura Wonenara, a remote community a few hours south. 137 smallholders between these two communities collectively farm 313 hectares of planted coffee. Both Konkua and Obura Wonenara, while obscure in size, are nationally recognized in PNG’s coffee industry for their qualities, winning a national cupping competition in 2015. Coffees grown here are processed as is typical among smallholders in PNG: cherry is picked and hand-pulped on site, and then fermented dry in small plastic tubs or bags, often for as long as 48 hours to achieve the necessary mucilage degradation in a very small batch. Clean water is used to wash the fermented parchment, which is then dried on a combination of ground tarps and, more frequently, raised screen beds. The farming network maintains a central collection depot near the Highlands Highway, where dried parchment accumulates before being sold to the exporter at the mill. “A/X” in PNG simply denotes a blend of screen sizes, which is independent of the coffee’s quality, and is a common physical grade for smallholder coffee.
To learn more about PNG’s unusual coffee industry, check out our recent blog article “The Wild West of Coffee Production.”