November 2022 Discovery Coffee





REGION | Highlands

PROCESS | Washed 

SPECIES | Arabica 

VARIETY | Typica, Arusha, Bourbon

ALTITUDE | 1500 -1800 masl 


Close to the border of Eastern Highlands Province, the district of Chuave lies, central to Papua New Guinea and within the New Guinea Highlands that stretch across the island of New Guinea, second largest in the world. The Highlands themselves are actually a chain of mountain ranges, and the Bismarck range, with Mount Wilhelm as its highest peak, is where the coffee growing slopes that produce the cherry for Elimbari are. PNG is what is known as a megadiverse country – one of 17 identified countries that exhibit over 5,000 endemic plant species and bordering marine ecosystems.

Coffee is grown mainly by smallholders in ‘gardens’ - a small plot of land that contains everything from a few trees up to a three-hectare plot at most. There are a few more traditional plantations, but these account for just under 20% of production. Once picked, coffee is pulped, and then dried fermented for 24 hours in wooden or plastic boxes before being washed and dried on sails –stretched tarpaulin drying beds. Coffee is then sold to collectors and taken to the renovated dry mill facility belonging to Kongo, who cup, select, process and hand sort where necessary before bagging and exporting the coffee.

Arusha is an interesting variety. Assumed to be from Typica lineage, it occurs in both Tanzania and Papua New Guinea but other than that, information is vague at best. Both countries share a mixed German British colonial background and Arusha itself is a city in Tanzania, not far from Mount Kilimanjaro and the border with Kenya. Most varieties were introduced to the country in the 1950’s from African and Australian research stations, though coffee is first recorded in PNG in 1873, and was growing in the Rabaul Botanical Gardens by 1890, but was not grown in Simbu until the 1960’s. More confusingly, French Missionaries planted coffee in the Kilimanjaro area in the 1890’s and you sometimes see that given as the source for Arusha; this was assumed to be from a Bourbon heritage, though other countries have had coffee tested from this lineage and had that proven to be of Typica lineage.


The anthropological history of PNG is fascinating, but this is a page about coffee, so: Germans and British colonised Papua New Guinea in the 19th century, with the Germans toward the north and Brits in the south, where they planted coffee in and around Port Moresby in order to sell it to the Australian market. In the 1920s, commercial coffee production was increased through the introduction of Typica coffee from Jamaica, a variety commonly known as Blue Mountain. As was common in most coffee-growing areas of the Pacific Islands, most of the coffee production was from a handful of large European- or Australian-owned estates, with labor coming from the local indigenous population.

Today, while there are still estates and plantations, the majority of coffee production comes from smallholder farmers, each with around 1–2 hectares called “gardens” in which they grow small amounts of coffee as well as whatever else a family or community might need for use or sale. Less than 3 percent of the country is used for commercial agriculture, and forest makes up more than 63 percent of Papua New Guinea’s landscape.

Cultural differences and conflict are partially responsible for the logistical difficulties of sourcing from PNG: The country’s many indigenous populations are often very distinct from one another in terms of custom and language, and individual communities might comprise only a few hundred people, making communication and the cultural sensitivity required to do business here more difficult than in other coffee-growing regions. Less than 10 percent of the population is connected to or uses the Internet for communications, and there are roughly 55 telephones (both fixed-line and cellular) for every 100 people—another impediment when operating within a very digital contemporary global coffee industry.

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