Once upon a time, PNG used to be my favorite region—I used to be really into those Indo-Pacific countries; back before I knew anything about specialty coffees, before my palate was more fine-tuned, I really liked those big-bodied, musty, earthy coffees.
However, that’s not always the case with these PNGs. Papua New Guinea is often (unfairly, I might add) pigeonholed as an Indonesian coffee, even though it’s a world away from Java or Sumatra—geographically, culturally, and in most aspects of coffee production.
Many smallholder farms in Papua New Guinea could be more accurately classified as “coffee gardens”; a farmer might have a hundred trees planted around their house, and the farmer will sell their crops to wet mills. However, there are some residents who do own large coffee-production properties.
In the mid-1960′s, the PNG government encouraged early settlers to start growing coffee as a long-term sustainable crop. So Ben Colbran started to plant coffee trees on a plot of a land he named Baroida Estate, becoming one of the first coffee producers of the Eastern Highlands.
The Colbrans explain that “the name Baroida comes from an old traditional spirit that was believed to reside in a particular large rock that lies in the middle of the river that runs through the lands of the plantation. The reason it was believed a spirit, is that even the largest river floods could not move this one rock, even when all other stones and rocks were washed away.”
The Colbran Family is now in its third generation with Ben’s son, Nichol, and grandson, Chris, running Baroida Estate.
The farm is an awesome combination of heritage and technology due to the partnership of the father-son team. Nichol is the father, who has been living the farm for most of his life. His style is based on rugged instinct and determination. Chris, on the other hand, is deeply into technology and this enables them to monitor and measure everything to do with the coffee. The machinery is all top notch. They are building a certified cupping room, and though they are already the leaders in Specialty Coffee for PNG, their goal is to set their coffee estate among the top farms in the world.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Papua New Guinea Baroida Estate, from Joe Coffee in Brooklyn, New York, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Aiyura, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
farm: Baroida Estate
producer: Nicholas and Chris Colbran
elevation: 1670 – 1830 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica, Arusha
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of this Baroida Estate is sweet, warm, and inviting; sugary and mellow, but with a little bit of red berry brightness to make it a bit more lively. Caramel, brown sugar, and graham cracker pie crust sweetness combine with raspberry and cranberry to create an aroma that is, actually, not quite like any other New Guinean I can remember trying here at the Table.
Taking my first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, my palate is greeted by flavors that are identical to and informed by the individual components found in the aroma. This is a full-bodied coffee that gushes onto the tongue; it doesn’t necessarily envelop the tongue, though, so much as it spreads over it like a down comforter – heavy and warm, but comfortable. Flavors of honey, brown sugar, and salted caramel provide a flowing foundation that spreads over the top and drapes down the sides of the tongue, while a rush of bright, juicy, tart, and startlingly clear cranberry juice acidity streams down the center of the tongue.
While these flavors play together and complement one another very well, they are two very distinct taste experiences; however, as the coffee cools, these individual flavors come together, becoming a more cohesive, consistent, rounded flavor. With further flavors of dried apple slices, raisin, orange rind, and a sprinkling of walnut in the finish of every sip makes the back half of this coffee like trail mix or a granola bar.
Full body; velvety mouthfeel; berry acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
I don’t know how they did it, but Joe Coffee managed to find the PNG that doesn’t taste like any other PNG I’ve had before. Joe’s Baroida Estate is a dense, velvety, full-bodied coffee that is equally bright, tangy, tart, and refreshing. In my experience, most PNG’s are full-bodied, a little earthy, spicy, and zesty; when I think of a standard PNG, I think “earth, cedar, coriander, cinnamon, lemon peel.” Joe’s PNG, on the other hand, taste of “salted caramel, honey, brown sugar, cranberry, nuts.”
One thing that really surprised me about this Baroida was how similar to an El Salvadoran coffee it was. If I were blind-tasting this coffee and told to guess what growing region it came from, I probably would have guessed either Santa Ana, El Salvador or Huehuetenango, Guatemala. And I would’ve looked like an idiot.
But in my defense, this cup was very accessible – “user friendly” – and sweet all the way through; I honestly don’t think I’ve ever used the term “sweet” to describe a coffee from Papua New Guinea – or “accessible,” for that matter. Indonesian coffees stand in stark contrast to coffees from the rest of the world, and even the coffees from regions within Indonesia stand in stark contrast to one another: Sulawesis, Sumatras, and Papua New Guineas – while having similar themes running through that tie them together – are completely unique and utterly singular. So it’s unusual to me that this Papua New Guinea seems to be declaring, “Hey, I have notes of caramel, honey, and cranberry – I’m just like the rest of the you!”
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