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Cupping PNG Coffee
Papua New Guinea, Mile High
Plantation, 00-01 Crop
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
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
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 mélange 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.
-deCadmus, May 3, 2001
Green coffee source-