Mid-season deliveries from Papua New Guinea continue to impress this year. We’re tapping two more arrivals for analysis, including this Red Cherry selection and a limited offering of a Honey Process as well.
This Red Cherry Papua New Guinea is bright, zesty, and refreshing. We picked up a Rwanda-like acidity, and a tamarind-like stickiness, with notes of persimmon, papaya, apricot, and Persian cucumber. It’s quite clean and really a sparkling example of some of the best coffee Papua New Guinea has to offer.
Royal Coffee’s ongoing “Red Cherry Project” has expanded this year beyond the pilot projects in East Africa, growing to include coffees from islands in the Pacific. The project entails far more than ripe fruit selection, and is a way to highlight the best practices of a particular region while rewarding the producer with a fair price for the extra attention paid to details. In this case, we’ve paired with the Korgua Estate, a longtime partner, to produce some top quality heirloom coffee from central Papua New Guinea.
We’ve been sourcing coffee from the Nebilyer Valley for years. Coffees cultivated here are typically grown on 1-2 hectares of land by indigenous smallholder farmers, but this lot is grown on Korgua estate, among the first established on the island in the early parts of the 20th century by immigrants and colonizers. Prior to the twentieth century, coffee was not an important crop on the island, despite its proximity to other coffee growing Pacific islands.
The country of Papua New Guinea comprises the eastern half of the New Guinea island (the western half is part of the country of Indonesia) that rests like a disjoined puzzle piece off the northern coast of Australia. Commercial coffee production began in earnest in the region in the late 1920s, and is now the country’s second most important agricultural export after palm oil.
Korgua, and the local Kuta mill, are managed by Brian Leahy, the son of the farm’s founder, Dan, who was an early Australian explorer. Along with his adventurous sibling, Mick, the Leahy brothers chronicled in photos and on film Europeans’ first interactions with the indigenous highland population in the early 1930s. The farm and mill, built on a “neutral zone” has the distinction of creating a common ground for the Ulga and Kolga tribes, whose relationships have not always been amicable.
An unconventional PNG, the “red cherry” selection here has matched to the 100th of a g/mL the density of a peaberry we received in August from Korgua. It’s well within the usual moisture constraints, but has a fairly wide screen size spread, falling outside the typical sorting conventions we see from this island nation.
Korgua is cultivating classic heirloom varieties Bourbon and Typica. Both trace their origins back to Yemen, but Typica was the very first to leave the Arabian Peninsula. By the end of the 17th century, the Dutch were successfully cultivating their first coffees on the western coast of India, using coffee lifted from Yemen – either by the Sufi Baba Budan or merchant Pieter van der Broocke. From there, they sent cuttings that would sprout in Java around the turn of the 18th century, and would thereafter spread throughout the cultivating world. Not long after, the French would also secure Yemeni coffee, and plant trees on the island of Bourbon, now called Reunion. Bourbon would be used to replace much of the Western Hemisphere’s Typica stock beginning around the middle of the 19th century, and would also be used to populate much of East Africa’s fields by the beginning of the 20th century. Typica tends to have long, narrow seeds and the tree’s shape is conical; Bourbon, by contrast, has more rounded leaves, berries, and overall tree shape.
I was really excited to roast this Papua New Guinea Red Cherry Project this week. So many of the PNGs arriving this year have had such a dynamic acidity that they can often taste like a Kenyan coffee. With the larger screen size and moderately high water activity, I wanted to make sure to give this coffee enough time in the roaster to fully develop and bring out the acidity. Often times coffees with higher water activities will reach first crack at a higher temperature or later in the roast, so I wanted to make sure I would have plenty of time for post crack development.
One interesting development is a heat peak 1:30 into the roast, which resulted in a spike just after yellowing in the roasting chamber. This spike was not planned and unfortunately was the result of an extra smoke abatement system that I added to the machine. Usually I add this at the very beginning and so there is no spike. On the cupping table this coffee had a lot of dried fruit notes and bright citrus flavors all complemented by a creamy vanilla marshmallow.
In the midst of a technological crisis this week, Jen suggested I take a computer break and roast some coffee. I gratefully accepted, and took the helm of the Quest, setting out for adventure without so much as a map or compass, as both Evan and Jen promptly left the office and me to my own devices.
Thinking a little about how an electric stove works, and how I didn’t want to fry the coffee right off the bat, I warmed the roaster up to about 420F but then cut the amperage to zero and let it idle for a few seconds until I dropped the coffee in the machine and turned the fan to maximum. Once the temperature bottomed out, I kicked the amperage to maximum and cut the fan, followed by a gradual decline in amperage and a gradual increase in fan speed starting around the beginning of Maillard and ending up right where I started, at zero amps and maximum fan by the end of the roast.
A little quicker of a roast than I’d expected at 7:38, but not terribly disparate in whole bean versus ground Colortrack, the coffee offered a lot of acidic pop on the table, with a bit of caramelized sugars and a notable orange and herb flavor that echoed the Rwanda-like characteristics of the Ikawa roast. The coffee would probably respond a little better to a bit longer in Maillard, if I roasted again, I’d likely try to stretch that a bit more than the paltry two minutes in the roast charted here.
This week I drove to San Rafael to roast coffee with my friend Marcus Young at Boot Coffee. Marcus was kind enough to demonstrate how to roast on the Geisen. In all my years at Roasters Guild events, I never had the opportunity to roast on one until now. We roasted a small sample on the 2.5 kilo machine and Marcus began to walk me through all of the different controls on the roaster. Besides heat manipulation, I was delighted to also see drum speed and air pressure on the screen.
Since this was my first roast on the Geisen we decided to leave the new stuff alone and Marcus would walk me through the basics by only adjusting heat. We started off slow and then started to back off after yellowing once we had enough energy to finish the roast. Interestingly on the Geisen first crack happens around 358F which is only a 50F climb from yellowing. This makes the traditional times and ratios very different than I would usually see on a Probat. Another interesting observation was the Pascals reading, without setting it to a target air pressure, the drum constantly fluctuates between 147 – 154 Pa throughout the entire roast.
On the cupping table this coffee was very bright, with lots of tropical fruit and apricot. There was some candy corn sweetness that left it a little unbalanced with the acidity. Roasting this coffee again, I would pack more heat in the beginning of the roast and try to reach yellowing sooner so I could increase my Maillard time. Overall this is a really lovely coffee and I am a sucker for apricots so I could drink this coffee all day long.
This tasty selection from the Korgua Estate in Papua New Guinea is a lot of fun. Since we had a few more roasts than usual this week, Evan helped me brew up some of the Quest roasts while they were fresh, while I focused on Jen’s Giesen roasts after letting them rest for five days.
On my first attempt at a V60, I brewed a 1:16 ratio with 30g of coffee and 480g of water. Since Jen roasted a on the slightly larger Giesen, I felt emboldened to brew a lager pot of coffee for everyone to enjoy. I used bigger pulse pours too – three pours of 150g each. Brew time was normal, and TDS came in almost alarmingly within parameters. The cup had some fruit sweetness, like apple, pear and even boysenberry, but also had some interesting cooked vegetable notes that weren’t unpleasant but were certainly unexpected. Carrot juice, tart tomato, and walnut came through in the aftertaste, and I was sure that these flavors could easily be dialed out. Looking at my data, I wondered if increasing extraction might raise cup sweetness.
I tightened my grind up by half notch to 8.5, and poured a little more aggressively so as not to extend brew time too much. Sure enough, TDS and extraction went up a bit in this cup, as did the cup’s sweetness. This time around, the this Papua New Guinea tasted like apricot, cantaloupe, mango, and brown sugar, with an incredible velvety smooth body.
On the Kalita, Brian Leahy’s coffee presented some really interesting juniper, intense violet, cranberry, baking spice and some cedar, while on Chemex there were notes of stone fruit, tamarind, brown sugar and molasses. This is a really fun, complex coffee that deserves plenty of exploration.