- Rating: [rating:3.5/5]
What do you get if you blend the earthy body of a Sumatran with the mellow-sweet aroma of a Central American and the zippy briskness of a Kenya AA? Actually, you’d probably get the essentials of quite a lot of house blends. But you may be surprised to learn that you can find all of these characteristics in a single bean… a coffee from Papua New Guinea.
I’ve had a particularly difficult time trying to formally cup this coffee from the Mile High Plantation… I’ve simply been too busy enjoying it. I managed to save just enough of my initial order to sacrifice to my cupping spoon. And only just.
Papua New Guinea is settled on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea [the second largest island in the world], and shares a border with Indonesia. While the locale would imply that this New Guinea coffee should share a lot of characteristics with other Indonesians, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. This plantation-grown coffee is wet-processed as opposed to the dry or semi-washed Sumatrans I’ve got in the cellar, and that may play a role. Yes, there are certainly characteristics of a Sumatra present–a subtle earthiness for sure, and… whoops–I’m getting ahead of myself.
There are two distinct types of growers in New Guinea. There are small farms, and slightly less small plantations. [Though it’s a big island, there’s not a lot of land that can be planted.] The defining factor, then, is not so much acreage as it is that plantations have their own wet-processing mills, where the smaller farms often band together to form processing co-ops. The result in the cup? Plantation-grown coffees may have more consistent quality, and may better preserve some of the coffee’s more delicate flavors. [I’ve got a small-farm organic New Guinea on the way that should help determine just how well that bears out.]
The Mile High Plantation produces a clean, very uniform crop, that’s virtually defect free. The bean is a bit harder than I was led to believe by my first few roasts… it can take the heat of a fair range of roast styles, though a roast beyond Full City just wouldn’t be right–there are too many subtleties in the cup that would be lost.
This is not a particularly fragrant coffee, but what fragrance it has is spicy. It has a mildly sweet and fruity aroma, not at all unlike a Central American or Colombian. For an Asia/Pacific coffee it’s got a surprising amount of brightness, with a woody high-note that’s very much like a Kenya AA. It’s body, however, is lush and full of texture. Velvety and rich, it is at once smooth and weighty on the tongue. Its mouthfeel is quite dry. If it were a red wine, I’d swear it was kept in oak for a bit… it’s got a soft tannin-like quality that lingers to its finish.
This is a very rich, very complex coffee, with a silky body that just goes on and on. For all that, it’s well-rounded, and can be slurped all-day long. Chances are, if you’re at all like me, you will.
When it comes to roasting, you’ve got some options. A City roast will give you the most clear origin characteristics… but at Full City [just at the brink of, or a few snaps into second crack] you can still enjoy its brightness, while unleashing all of the silky body. Can’t decide? Try a melange of both!
I’m sure, too, this bean would be dynamite as espresso, or as part of an espresso blend. As soon as I get my hands on more, I plan to find out.