Sunday, 24 July 2016

PNG 10 Mt Hagen - Coffee

Coffee. Every barista or coffee entrepreneur should have to follow their coffee beans to their source. It's a revelation. Here in the Central Highlands coffee is the cash crop and Brian Lahey is the biggest trader. He doesn't own any plantations but is a joint venture partner in a 600 hectare plantation owned cooperatively by a collective of tradional landowners. Barry sources the finance to pay wages and costs; the cooperative manages the plantation; Barry processes and sells the final product to an international trading company which then onsells to the market (including Merlo and Campo in Australia).

He also buys beans directly from village plantations large and small. These are picked at the local level then sold on the roadside to mobile bean traders, utes piled high with the red and green harvest and delivered to Brian's processing plant.

Coffee bean to you.
1. Arabica coffee plant takes two years to produce from planting. Cultivation, pruning, weeding etc are all done by hand. No mechanisation to this stage. The kina goes directly to the village.
2. Coffee beans harvested by hand - May to July.
3. Delivered to processing plant
4. Washed in giant vats, the pulp removed and the beans split (each pod contains a bean which has two halves) as they pass through a machining process.
4. Sun dried for between two to five days to reduce moisture content and to allow safe storage - again a fully manual process
5. Beans bagged ready for advanced processing
6. Beans then go through a series of mechanical processes which do a further clean and polish, then mechanically sorted acccording to size and rebagged by grade - AAA, AA etc (beans that cannot be split are called pepper beans and are highly valued in some coffee circles)
7. Each bag is now manually examined and sifted on the factory floor (literally) to remove any broken, malformed or discoloured beans - the buyers have high expectations of quality control.
8 Next they are rebagged and labelled ready for final inspection and sale.
9. These are sold to international traders/distributors and on to major outlets and chains of roasteries (Merlo, Campos in Australia; and major companies in the USA - the main export destination)
10. Finally it reaches your local coffee shop or the supermarket shelves.

Time from harvest to final bagging approximately one week. Beans are bought from the local villages at around $1AUS a kilo and sold green (processed but unroasted) for about $2-$5AUS a kilo according to quality and the prevailing market. If there are about 50 cups of coffee to a kilo, at the final point of sale @ $3.50 a cup, the $1AUS price for the village produce has become $175.00 (or in bean form approx  $40AUS).

We visited Brian's joint venture plantation and processing plant and the only dissapointment was that there was not a whiff of coffee aroma in the whole day. It's all in the roasting. Maybe that why a cup of coffee is so expensive.

You might look for Kimul Coffee - Brian's trade name.

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