Flavor Profile Orange zest, tomato, floral, caramel, chocolate, full-bodied
Please Note This coffee landed more than 8 months ago.
Out of stock
Smallholder farmers organized around the Kuta mill
Tambul-Nebilyer District, Papua New Guinea
Centrally processed, fully washed and sundried
Royal has a long history buying coffee from the Leahy family, one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) most prominent in the coffee business. For multiple generations the Leahys have been based in PNG’s remote western highlands, growing, processing, and exporting specialty coffee against all odds. All our Nebilyer Valley coffees share a rich tactile, deep caramelized earthy-sweetness, and PNG’s characteristic herbaceous balance, with touches of citrus zest and sweet tomato. Under PNG export standards, “A” grade coffee is the best possible preparation and can be paired with any screen size designation.
Coffee in Papua New Guinea
From its earliest introduction to present day, the arabica gene stock in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is considered to be one of the country’s strongest natural assets, not to mention one of the best-preserved typica lineage variety sets in the world. And these delicate genetics clearly thrive in PNG’s highlands, which are some of the most virgin and fertile on the planet.
Between World Wars I and II, Australian settlers would establish more and more large coffee estates across the Eastern, Chimbu, Jiwaka, and Western highland provinces. As commercial exports ramped up, more indigenous Papuans would adopt coffee as a cash crop alongside their traditional economies, in most cases processing at home and selling humid parchment to traveling collectors. For hundreds of thousands of rural farmers coffee would be, and still is, the very first and only source of western currency. To this day expert-level cultivation knowledge largely remains in the possession and experience of PNG’s plantation owners. Remote smallholder coffee tends to fall short of its potential, receiving only scarce quality interventions from ambitious millers and exporters.
Nebilyer Valley and Mount Hagen
PNG’s Nebilyer Valley is a broad and fertile high-elevation valley in the country’s western highlands. Mount Hagen, the largest nearby city of about 50,000 people, is extremely remote but also PNG’s third largest. It’s a thriving hub for rural trade across the highlands, and a veritable metropolis compared to most municipalities on the Highlands Highway, PNG’s sole access route to the country’s central provinces. Along with tropical fruits, spice, vanilla, livestock, and a huge variety of subsistence crops, farmers have been cultivating coffee here for about 80 years. As with other coffee producing areas of PNG, there is a mixture of large estates, known locally as “plantations”, and individual smallholders with their own ancestral plots or share-cropped style land leases for the purpose of cultivation.
The Leahy family is considered the founders of the modern era in Nebilyer and nearby Waghi valleys. Brothers Mick and Dan Leahy, originally Australian prospectors, first entered the zone on foot in 1933, becoming the first westerners to make contact with the region’s indigenous tribes. To open access to the highland valleys, the Leahys built an airstrip that is now one of the main streets in the town of Mount Hagen.
By now the Leahy family has resided in the Western Highlands for many generations. Over time, coffee was established as a cash crop for the valleys’ remote farmers interested in western trade. The Leahy family, to support the industry as a peaceful and stable alternative to subsistence farming and local trade, has established an extensive coffee infrastructure in the valley that supports smallholders and larger estate owners alike through seedling distribution, organic fertilizer, processing, storage, milling, and exporting, all through the family’s Kuta mill.
Processing and Milling at Kuta Mill
“Nebilyer Valley” coffee is sourced from family-owned farms located in the Tambul-Nebilyer District, a vast highland expanse west of Mount Hagen. Each producer cultivates coffee on anywhere from 1-60 hectares of land. During harvest, cherry is collected in the field and brought to the wet mill, where a visual inspection is carried out and receivable cherries are weighed by producer. Cherries are then mechanically depulped and left to ferment underwater for 18 hours, after which the parchment is decanted, washed, transfered to another tank, and fermented again for 18 hours under fresh water. After the full 36 hours of fermentation is complete, parchment is carried to the adjoining fields where it is spread in a thin layer across long tarpaulins to dry in the direct sun.
PNG, like Kenya, commonly utilizes large conditioning silos for freshly-dried parchment, an extended resting phase prior to dry milling that allows moisture to equilibrate across the seed and for the water to bond more strongly inside, both of which promote shelf-stability. In the Leahy’s case, conditioning “boxes” are used, which are 50-foot tall vertical silos that sit together in a grid, like an ice cube tray, which are used to condition newly-dried parchment and blend day lots for container-load exports.
After conditioning, the coffee is dry milled to the specified screen size, passed through an optical color sorter, and hand sorted for additional defect removal.