Thanks to the fine folks at Craft Coffee and Fratello Coffee Roasters, I’m drinking a Papua New Guinean coffee for the first time in… Well—a couple years, probably. Once upon a time, PNG used to be my favorite region—I used to be really into those Indo-Pacific countries; back before I knew anything about specialty coffees, before my palate was more fine-tuned, I really liked those big-bodied, musty, earthy coffees.
However, that’s not always the case with these PNGs. Papua New Guinea is often (unfairly, I might add) pigeonholed as an Indonesian coffee, even though it’s a world away from Java or Sumatra—geographically, culturally, and in most aspects of coffee production.
Many smallholder farms in Papua New Guinea could be more accurately classified as “coffee gardens”; a farmer might have a hundred trees planted around their house, and the farmer will sell their crops to wet mills. However, there are some residents who do own large coffee-production properties.
In the mid-1960’s, the PNG government encouraged early settlers to start growing coffee as a long-term sustainable crop. So Ben Colbran started to plant coffee trees on a plot of a land he named Baroida Estate, becoming one of the first coffee producers of the Eastern Highlands.
The Colbrans explain that “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.”
The Colbran Family is now in its third generation with Ben’s son, Nichol, and grandson, Chris, running Baroida Estate.
The farm is an awesome combination of heritage and technology due to the partnership of the father-son team. Nichol is the father, who has been living the farm for most of his life. His style is based on rugged instinct and determination. Chris, on the other hand, is deeply into technology and this enables them to monitor and measure everything to do with the coffee. The machinery is all top notch. They are building a certified cupping room, and though they are already the leaders in Specialty Coffee for PNG, their goal is to set their coffee estate among the top farms in the world.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Baroida Estate, from Fratello Coffee Roasters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Aiyura, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
farm: Baroida Estate
producer: Nicholas and Chris Colbran
elevation: 1670 – 1830 meters above sea level
cultivars: Bourbon, Typica, Arusha
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma of the Baroida Estate is thick and massive, and it hangs heavy in the air. Big notes of cane sugar and maple syrup dominate the nose, while soft earthy spices mingle in behind. Also present is just a hint of citrus.
The first sip of this coffee reminds me of why I used to be so infatuated with PNGs—it is spicy and earthy and it has a bright, zesty citrus acidity that simply sparkles. Cedar chips, pine needle, and mellow mesquite spiciness introduce more flavors of Meyer lemons, salted caramel, and molasses.
As it cools, this coffee goes off like a volcano. Each sip is suddenly an absolute mouthful; even the tiniest slurp comes gushing over the palate like lava, lazily rolling down the side of a mountain. Furthermore, I feel like I have to take tiny slurps because the coffee is so full-bodied, so thick, that I don’t think my palate could handle the weight of it if I took a “normal-sized sip.” I understand that, from an editorial standpoint, I’m really sensationalizing what this coffee is doing inside my mouth, but I feel like I have to do that to get across exactly this coffee experience is like.
Experience aside, this coffee is also boasting a lot of unique flavors right now: blackberry, marionberry, bing cherry, pomegranate, cantaloupe, guava, papaya, and kumquat.
Full body; molasses mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
There are those who will tell you that Papua New Guinean coffees aren’t worth your time; most roasters won’t even give them a fair shake. While I think the aversion is unfair, I also understand it. Because for every one good PNG coffee, there are dozen or more terrible ones. That’s just the Way of Things when it comes to coffees from this part of the world.
However, the Baroida Estate, from Fratello Coffee Roasters, is certainly the exception. Furthermore, not only is it a good PNG coffee, is it a fantastic PNG coffee. Yeah—I went there.
I know that some of my reviews can be unnecessarily poetic and over the top (this review certainly is), but this coffee deserves every bit of praise that I’m giving it. It has a lot of really incredible flavors and it provides the consumer such a unique tasting experience that you don’t really find in other regions.
Much like Sumatra’s Batak coffees, Baroida Estate is the standard bearer, the definition, of an incredible Indo-Pacific coffee.
Don’t be fooled, though—as I’ve mentioned, it is also the exception. Don’t go out and buy a crappy PNG and say, “Well, A Table in the Corner of the Cafe said they’re great”—they’re not. PNGs (and Sumatras, for that matter) are very fickle and a really good one is very hard to find.
This PNG, though, the Baroida Estate from Fratello, is that “really good one.”
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.