March 11, 2013 by beanerbar
MARCH FEATURED COFFEE
Aiyura, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
Typica, Bourbon, Arusha, MondoNovo
When many people first think of Papua New Guinea, they think of a remote, diverse, beautiful, yet strange place, and, we admit, Papua new Guinea is all those things. It is all of those things in the most impressive and astonishing of ways. Working with the Colbran family and their farm, Baroida, in the Eastern Highlands has made us appreciate this place, and the immense amount of work it takes to produce what we feel is best coffee in the Pacific. Baroida brings a blend of sweet and savory notes, coupled with stone fruit, ginger, and molasses, over a lush body that can win people over immediately.
In 2010, after years of successful partnerships with quality-focused coffee producers in the Western Highlands, we found ourselves having to search high and low for a great coffee from Papua New Guinea. Reaching out to many of our exporting and importing partners resulted in the arrival of a sample from Baroida. Immediately upon tasting it, we knew that Baroida was a special coffee. Little did we know that the coffee we were tasting was the very first coffee the Colbran family had ever exported themselves. In 2010, after years of turning in their coffee to various exporters, that would either sell it or blend it into generic lots, the Colbrans decided to process and export their own coffee.
This year represents our third year of buying from and working with the Colbran family, and we have no hesitation in saying their coffee is the best in the all of the Pacific. Not only has there coffee been great for the last three years, but this year the Colbrans implemented myriad quality focused initiatives. They now employ a team of people to sort out any poorly picked cherry, they built a raised bed for drying experimentation, isolated varieties for the purpose of tasting, and did a few batches of post-fermentation soaking, all in an effort to make their coffee better. On the other hand, 2012 was a tough year amplified by a very low yielding crop for Baroida and the producers associated with the Tairora Project. Because of low yields Counter Culture is one of only a few roasters in the US with access to these great coffees, which makes us extremely grateful to the Colbran family for working with us, and makes us feel very proud to be representing their coffee.
The coffee-growing region of Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands is one of the most remote places on earth. The region’s legendary biodiversity, rich topsoil, elevation, and weather make it one of the most unusual microclimates in coffee. We’ve fallen in love with the coffees here, especially the coffee from Baroida. Since the 1960s, when the Colbrans bought their coffee estate, they have been producing magnificent coffee from their farm and neighboring farms. The Colbrans manage everything – from processing to milling – paying attention to every detail.
“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.” – Colbran Coffeelands.
Aiyura, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
Baroida sits just outside the town Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and the villages associated with the Tairora project surround the estate. This part of the Eastern Highlands is mostly rolling grasslands, but it has remarkable climate and great conditions for growing coffee and, really, anything. The Tairora Tribe inhabited this area of Papua New Guinea 800 years ago and mostly cultivate sweet potatoes up until the 1950s and ’60s when coffee became popular.
The lowest altitude we saw around the plantation was just under 1,600 meters but can reach as high as 1,865 meters. Baroida itself was one of the first coffee farms in the area, and much of the coffee planted by small producers of the Tairora Project actually originally came from seeds from the Baroida Estate. Baroida today is only one of few estates in all of Papua New Guinea.
Kenya, and in particular the coffee from Kenya, strikes me as a Catch-22. On one hand, Kenya has the best average quality of any single country we taste samples from. On the other hand, it is the country where organic production is the least likely now and for the foreseeable future – because of plant disease, pest, and overall dependence of chemical fertilizers.
Papua New Guinea in general is a late-comer to the production of coffee, really only starting in the 1920s and not really taking off until the 1950s. Today, Papua New Guinea is most famous for how remote and culturally diverse it is. This remoteness kept outside visitors from venturing into the Papua New Guinea highlands until the early 1900s. This remoteness also led to the other very popular fact about Papua New Guinea which is that the hundreds of individual tribes in the country speak more 800 documented languages between all of them. It is often stated that certain tribes did not know of others tribes living as close as a few kilometers away due to the rugged terrain and remoteness of the highlands.
Baroida was founded by Ben Colbran and wife Norma in the early 1960s, after purchasing the land from an indigenous man named Taro. At that time, the surrounding land was mostly grassland, so, for the first two years, Ben primarily cultivated vegetables that he would sell in the coastal town of Lae. In 1965, Ben followed the the government’s encouragement to plant coffee, which thrived in this micro-climate. Ben owned Baroida until 1979, when he sold the land to a trust, but Ben’s son Nichol stayed to manage. Nichol managed the operation until 1991, we he left to work on other projects. In 1997, he bought the land back, but, in those 6 short years while Nichol was gone, the farm had been mismanaged and had fallen into disrepair. Fortunately, the Colbran family immediately started to turn things around, all the while helping to create positive livelihoods for a lot of the local producers around the farm. In 2005, Nichol’s son Chris moved back to the farm to work on many of the projects, in particular the cherry-purchasing Tairora project and the parchment-purchasing Lamari project. Chris’s wife Melody has also been an integral part of the Colbran farm, and, among many other contributions, she has helped build a local school for the community.
Nichol Colbran, son of Baroida’s founder Ben Colbran, was born in Invercargill, New Zealand, and came to Papua New Guinea when he was 6 years old and stayed ever since. Nichol has managed Baroida for over 30 years, and is constantly working on systems of improvement. Nichol’s son Chris was born in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, and grew up helping his father and grandfather on the farm. After a few years of moving around with his family, Chris returned to Baroida in 2005 to start the Tairora and Lamari Network, coffee projects dedicated to improving pricing and traceability in the local coffee trade.
Coffee veteran Stephen Romrundi, Baroida’s Extension and Sustainability Officer, hails from Mt. Hagen, and came to Baroida in 2007 to help with the Tairora Network. This past year, Stephen helped Counter Culture in separating varieties from the farm for tasting, and we are very excited about tasting this separation.
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Arusha, MondoNovo
Elevation: 1,600 – 1,865 meters
Harvest Time: April 2012 – August 2012
Fermentation: Coffee is pulped using disk pulpers and dry fermented for 36 hours. After fermentation the mucilage is removed though pumping the coffee through pipes.
Drying: Outdoor tarps and mechanical dryers. Coffee is dried on plastic tarps on the ground, and drying times vary greatly on climate and can range from a few days to over 30 days. he last few years drying has been a challenge as weather has been unpredictable and unseasonably rainy. This causes the Colbrans to use the mechanical drier more frequently, even though the tarps are preferred. This past harvest, more than 95% of the coffee for our lots though were dried solely using tarp drying.