Coffee review: Papua New Guinea coffees

by on July 18, 2007

Recently, I posted a backgrounder on Papua New Guinea coffee. One of my favorite coffees is Allegro Coffee Roaster’s PNG Sigri Estate, which is not reviewed here because the crop ran out and it was unavailable at my local Whole Foods Market. In fact, it’s my understanding that PNG coffees are best when the beans come from the peak of harvest. So these reviews should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as this time of year last year’s crop (2006) would be a bit long in the tooth anyway.

First up is The Roasterie’s Kimel Estate, from the Eastern Highlands. This coffee was closest to a Sumatran of the three we tried. It was fairly heavy, sort of tannic and earthy, but not quite as in-your-face as a Sumatran. Very hot, it had sharp notes, but as it cooled the dull leathery tones emerged; I describe these woody/earthy flavors as wet cardboard, which sounds a little more unpleasant than it is.  We found this wasn’t a subtle, sweet coffee, and would be more of a hit with people who like more aggressive tastes. We gave it 2.5 motmots, but our take on this was at complete odds with the description at Coffee Review. Take two reviews and call us in the morning.

Ecco Caffe’s Purosa Estate is an organic coffee that is not technically from a single estate, but from small holders in Western Highlands. This coffee was very bright with a surprising citrus zing when hot.  It was full-bodied, and as it cooled it got a bit syrupy, rustic, and earthy. We found this generally very interesting, with many little flavors hitting the tongue throughout. 3.25 motmots.

Last up was Counter Culture’s Red Mountain, from the Waghi Valley in the Western Highlands. (Caveat: I know this was the last batch from the crop.) The most curious thing about this coffee was that the taste gave us no hint of origin. It was closest to a classic Central American, pleasant and subtle, but with few other distinguishing characteristics. All of us got a fleeting zesty sparkle on the first hot sip; like a shooting star it quickly faded into the dark night. Like the other PNGs, it was medium-bodied, but a bit lighter than the others, further obscuring a sense of source. 2.75 motmots.

These coffees were all over the page. It’s actually one of the things a couple of us really like about PNG coffees — they are a bit mysterious and hard to pin down, you just don’t know what you might get in the cup.  But given the age of the coffees in these reviews, we’re going to revisit PNG coffees when roasters start getting their 2007 crop because none of these lived up to what we have enjoyed in PNGs in the past. Stay tuned.

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Revised on September 25, 2013

Posted in Coffee reviews,Indo-Pacific

deCadmus July 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm

It's hard — very hard — to pin Papua New Guinea coffees to just one or two arcs of the flavor wheel. I'd be reluctant to try.

Most PNG coffees that see our shores are plantation grown, wet-processed beans, which lends them a clean, bright, citrus-like acidity and classic and polished flavors that we'd most often associate with Central American origins. If you're lucky they'll offer heavy body, too, which is really the only characteristic they might share with other Indonesian coffees.

There are also "garden coffee" PNGs, which are grown around homes and near roadsides of villages most everywhere. These coffees — even when wet-processed — tend to have more of a rustic, wet-bark or rooty character to them, and maybe some wild fermenty notes that I quite like.

Finally, there are natural and dry-process PNGs that I'd expect should cup much as happy cross-pollination of say, a natural process Ethiopian and Sumatra. I can only speculate though, as I've yet to find one on the US market.

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