The anthropological history of PNG is fascinating, but this is a page about coffee, so: Germans and British colonized 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.
One of the unique characteristics of the coffee market in Papua New Guinea is the grading system used here, which measures not simply screen size as in other countries (like Kenya or Colombia), but also bean shape, color, cup quality, and presence of defect.
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