Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea
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 perfect weather make it one of the planet's most unusual microclimates. Baroida and the communities associated with the Tairora Project sit scattered outside the town of Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. This part of the Eastern Highlands is mostly rolling grasslands, but it has remarkable climate and great conditions for growing coffee.
The lowest altitude we saw around the plantation was just under 1,600 meters but can reach as high as 1,900 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 a handful of estates in all of Papua New Guinea. Some of the villages in the area that turn in coffee to the Tairora Project include Boka, Kantuera, Kobuta, Abiera, and the Bonta village from which we also have selected a few microlots over the years – including this year. Growers in this area who contribute to the Tairora project have between 2 and 25 hectares of coffee and grow an assortment of fruits and vegetables and a few other cash crops.
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.
Tairora is the name of the largest tribe in the area, hence the name the Colbran family gave to the project of purchasing cherry from producers around them.
Baroida was founded by Ben Colbran and wife Norma in the early 1960s, after purchasing the land from an indigenous man named Taro. At the time, the surrounding land was mostly grassland, and, for the first two years, Ben primarily cultivated vegetables that he sold 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 Nichol was 6 years old and have stayed ever since. Nichol has managed Baroida for more than 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 out varieties from the farm for tasting and is one of the go-to people at the farm.
July 4 & 9, 2013
Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Arusha Elevation:
1,600 - 1,865 Process:
Washed. Coffee is pulped using disk-pulpers, and dry-fermented for 36 hours. After fermentation, mucilage is removed by pumping the coffee through pipes. Farmers often walk for hours to bring in cherry coffee to the Colbran family. The Colbrans pay a premium over the market for the cherry, and record everyone that contributed coffee cherry to that particular day batch. 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. The 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.