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Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea

Virgin Mountain AX1

Most of the coffee exported out of PNG is grown by smallholder producers in ‘coffee gardens’ of around 2 hectares planted with around 2,000 trees. These are often inter-planted with leguminous trees, such as Casuarina and Albizia, which provide shade cover for the coffee. There are also a number of conventional plantations, but these declined dramatically in number after PNG declared independence in 1975 and many of the large foreign land owners left the country. Most of these plantations have since been sub-divided and are now managed by ‘block holder’ tenant farmers with labour provided by the extended family. This ‘Virgin Mountain’ coffee has been produced by such small holder farmers.

From Kainantu, in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands, a rough road passes through the Aiyura Valley and twists through the hills continuing up into the Nori Kori Valley. The coffee is called Virgin Mountain due to this unique and special location, where coffee trees line the hinterlands along the local customary boundaries separating the Kamano/Kafe people and the Gadzup communities. The coffee trees are nestled along primary forest fringes across fertile slopes.

  • Farm Virgin Mountain AX1
  • Varietal Arusha, Typica
  • Process Fully washed
  • Altitude 1,600+ metres above sea level
  • Town / City Various villages in the Nori Kori Valley
  • Region Eastern Highlands
  • Owner Various smallholder producers
  • Tasting Notes Nutella with juicy plum and fig, sweet spices, vanilla and floral
  • Farm Size 1-2 hectares
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Virgin Mountain AX1

Ben Akike, a young entrepreneur who is now working with local smallholders to improve quality in the Nori Kori, is the mobilising figure here. Ben is a cherry ‘collector’– a business man who goes from village to village and family to family buying coffee cherry or (as in this case) parchment coffee. Collectors such as Ben are not simply ‘middlemen’. Rather, they perform a vital role in transporting the coffee from the small producers to the dry mill and are also an important link in the quality control chain, as they will not pay good prices for poorly prepared parchment.

Ben takes this one step further. He is building a new wet mill in the region that will receive daily deliveries of ripe, red cherry from smallholders in the surrounding area. Wet milling, fermentation, washing and drying will be managed on site. This will allow far greater control of quality than the more typical scenario, where smallholders pick, pulp, ferment, wash coffee on a daily basis on their own farms, which is then sun-dried on a tarpaulin (or ‘sail’) and then offered for sale at the roadside to ‘collectors’, such as Ben, who pay the price on the day.

Papua New Guinea
About Papua New Guinea

Coffee is a major industry for Papua New Guinea involving more than 2.5 million people (or nearly half of the total population). The crop remains the main source of income for many highland farmers. The country currently exports around 787,000 bags of coffee, bringing in $117 million to the economy.