Papua New Guinea: coffee from the other side of the world

October 01, 2022

Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

You can’t find a source of coffee more remote to the Western world than Papua New Guinea (PNG). This country is located on an island that is just a few kilometers off the Northern coast of Australia.

This island, though close to Australia, has remained largely untouched by most of modern culture. Many native tribes coexist here and live off the land, maintaining a very similar lifestyle to the one they had before colonizers came around.

PNG is also one of the most heterogeneous countries in the world, meaning that there are hundreds of different ethnicities. Even so, many of these ethnicities can be traced back to Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islands, with many of them believed to have been inhabiting the region for more than 5000 and 10,000 years.

History of coffee in Papua New Guinea

PNG had a bit of a late start in the world of coffee. Even though it was discovered around the 19th century, coffee wasn’t really introduced because of the Amazon-like impenetrable wilderness of the island. Most settlers wrote the land off as being too hard to cultivate.

Then, the new century came and it turned out that coffee was one of the most profitable industries in the world. And guess which country had the ideal type of soil —and climate!— for growing coffee? Correct.

And just like that, coffee farms began to pop up all over PNG. Many people, farmers since birth, started planting coffee in their personal farms along other regular crops like cassava, plantain, etc. and mostly selling the coffee. It was a profitable crop, which encouraged many people to grow it, giving the world a taste for this exotic coffee.

And while the coffee industry was prosperous for a while, it wasn’t the same story as with most other countries. Papuan coffee became famous worldwide, and yet, this didn’t result in the local coffee industry growing. On the contrary; it has shrinked.

This is mostly an infrastructure problem. PNG isn’t a particularly rich country, and a lot of the infrastructure needed to transport coffee from the rest of the country to the capital city has been neglected and thus deteriorated. This makes it very hard for producers to get their product to potential buyers, and so a lot of people have simply stopped growing coffee.

Today, PNG has even more demand than it used to have decades ago, yet coffee production is the same that it was many years ago. This is because Papuan coffee has an unforgettable flavor which we’ll talk about in this next section.

Papua New Guinea’s coffee

What is it that makes this coffee so special that demand keeps climbing even though there’s so very little availability compared to other countries?

Well, the answer is obvious. It’s the flavor. Papuan coffee has a very distinct flavor with a bright but very pleasant acidity. It is described as having apple-like taste and even aroma while also having a certain wine-like flavor and aftertaste.

Its flavor, if confined to a single word, would be “broad”. This is because Papuan New Guinea has a certain quality that is quite hard to grasp. The experience as a whole, meaning the body, aroma, aftertaste, and flavor, always come out on top from similar coffee varieties. Nobody does this type of coffee like Papua New Guinea.


Even though the coffee industry in this country isn’t as big as in some other countries, it still contributes to more than 40% of the country’s economy, which is rather a lot. Even more so when you consider that Papua New Guinea contributes only to 1% of the world’s coffee!

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