At a Glance: Indo/Pacific (Papua New Guinea); medium body; spicy, sweet, nutty, citrusy, fruity, gritty, earthy; medium acidity; washed

I couldn’t stop myself. I just couldn’t.

I wanted to hold off buying coffee from my favorite region for a while so that I could spend more time dabbling in regions I haven’t really explored in a while—like Costa Rica, Hawaii, Colombia, Brazil, the Africas, Sulawesi… But, being Mother’s Day, and having had an exceptional weekend, I decided that there would be no better way to top it off than with a bag of beans from Papua New Guinea. I also wanted to hold off buying beans from Dark Matter Coffee for a while—I already know they’re my favorite roaster in Chicago, after all.

But, again, I had such a fantastic weekend, that I decided I was going to make it even more fantastic. Because I am The Drew, and I owe it to myself.

I’m constantly amazed at how different coffees from the same region taste from farm to farm, from company to company, from roast to roast. There is no better example than a Sumatra bean, compared to a Sumatra Blue Batak bean (you can read a review of Peet’s Coffee and Tea’s roasts those two beans here)—even though both beans come from Sumatra, the fact that they’re grown in different cities, at different altitudes, and are roasted differently renders them completely different from each other. The same is even true of coffees that have nearly identical origins.

And that’s the primary reason I’m so fascinated by beans from Papua New Guinea—their beans typically produce a cup of coffee that’s about as consistently close to perfection as a cup of coffee can possibly be.

Almost all of the coffee grown in New Guinea is done so way up in the highlands, where conditions are perfect. Since the mountains are so steep, and so dangerous, farmers typically have to tend to their crops by making their treks up the mountainsides by foot. Of course, since trucks or other farm machinery are nearly impossible to haul up to the peaks, New Guinean coffees are typically grown organically. Of course, organic coffee means more intense flavors; and New Guinean coffee means a lot of complex flavors.

Naturally (pun totally intended), these two components go hand in hand to create some of the most fantastic coffee on Earth. And I don’t think many coffee roasters understand this better than Chicago’s own Dark Matter Coffee.

Dark Matter Coffee, the brainchild of Star Lounge Coffee, started up in 2008 under the guidance of Jesse Diaz (a former Peetnik like me). Being an avid coffee connoisseur with an impeccable palate and understanding of the entire coffee process, from plantation to cup, Jesse is an almost natural roastmaster. And his love for coffee really shows up sip after sip of any Dark Matter roast.

This is especially true  of their Papua New Guinea Peaberry.

This cup of coffee was incredibly complex—so many different notes in the aroma, so many subtleties melding together to create a perfectly rounded cup.  My first smell of the bag when I opened it at home had a powerfully sweet, nutty scent—almost peanut buttery, actually. I shook the bag to mix up the grounds a bit more and it released scents of a fruity cocoa—like a chocolate covered berry. These aromas were only intensified when I brewed a pot; it made the entire kitchen smell like a candy shop.

The taste, though, was the real star of the show. There were so many layers upon layers of flavors in its medium body that were difficult to decipher, but easy to identify (by that I mean that the roundedness of the cup was so perfectly blended that the flavors really came together to create one awesome taste): a sweet, spicy coffee with notes of cocoa, citrus (either mango or papaya), cranberry, and almond all wrapped up with a gritty, earthy bow.

One thing I noticed about the Papua New Guinea Peaberry, though, was that it wasn’t as crisp as other New Guinean coffees I’ve had; it had a fairly dry finish that lingered on the palate for a little while on account of its medium acidity. In my experience, New Guinea coffees tend to have a cleaner finish, where there isn’t hardly any aftertaste. But that isn’t a complaint—the flavor was so pleasant, I definitely didn’t mind it sticking around for a while.

The Bottom Line

If you’re asking my opinion, Papua New Guinea has the greatest coffee on Earth. And Dark Matter Coffee is the best roaster in Chicago. It’s fairly obvious to me that these two entities would come together to create a coffee superpower. The Papua New Guinea Peaberry is a fantastic standby when you’re trying to decide between bags of beans—it is a definite tiebreaker. If you love complex coffees that will challenge your palate sip after sip, Dark Matter’s Papua New Guinea Peaberry will be your new favorite.

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