On October 18th, 3 of the DRW team and 8 UK coffee roasters travelled to St Helens to watch the opening game of PNG’s World Cup journey vs. Tonga.
Why, you may ask? The PNG Coffee Industry Corporation, with the support of UK Aid and ITC, celebrated PNG’s World Cup involvement by hosting a cupping with DRW. The event epitomises the renewed commitment to the coffee industry in PNG. In August, the PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, announced his new political cabinet. A highlight was the introduction of a new ministerial position: ‘Minister for Coffee’. PNG are the first country in the world to appoint such a minister.
The coffee industry is a critical component of the PNG economy. Annual production of 800,000 bags equates to 35% of national agricultural exports and 5% of GDP. 85% of annual production is farmed by smallholder producers. Over 2.5 million people, ¼ of the population, rely on the crop in some manner.
DRW have been buying coffee from Papua New Guinea since 1970. It is one of two origins that the company first traded. Today, we import over 50% of the PNG coffee sold in the UK and buy ~ 0.5% of the annual PNG production. That said, PNG coffee is still underrepresented. This is particularly true in the UK market. The opportunity to celebrate PNG coffee, with the World Cup as a backdrop, was the perfect platform to spread the word.
The day began with a presentation from the overseas coffee representative for PNG CIC, Mick Wheeler. Also present were Honourable Don Poyle, Minister for Education and Sport. Honourable Joe Kuli, Minister for coffee. And Honourable Joseph Varo, Deputy High Commissioner. Mick explored the political focus on agricultural exports, harvest updates and changes to the grading system. Click here to read about those in more detail in our latest origin focus. The presentation led into a varied and dynamic discussion between all three parties: PNG coffee experts, roasters and the DRW team.
We couldn’t put this event on without showcasing PNG coffee on the cupping table. There were 9 cups to try in total, spanning the full quality spectrum. The Anaerobic Honey Sigri AX was a real marmite coffee. The Y1 from Kongo coffee was a surprising crowd-pleaser. Another favourite was the Fairtrade Organic Enorga A from Coffee Connections. Lots of apple juice and citrus flavours, with a bright liquorice finish. Most of the roasters were familiar with PNG coffee. For one or two, it was the first time. The spicy, bright, and fruity profiles that are often associated with PNG coffee came to the fore.
The focus then moved from coffee to rugby. The “Totally Wicked Stadium” in St Helens was the backdrop to the PNG vs. Tonga fixture. Before kick-off, we had the opportunity to meet the Kumuls team. The squad were clearly huge admirers of Sports Minister Don Poyle and keen to show their thanks for his work. There were certainly a few coffee lovers in the team as well, with Coffee Minister Joe Kuli working the room and explaining his new position. Rugby League is the national sport of PNG, so this show of solidarity is particularly important. It also ensured that we all shouted that bit louder when the Kumuls graced the turf. The only downside of the day was the narrow PNG defeat; made even harder to accept due to the controversially disallowed try for the Kumuls late on. Big wins against Cook Islands and Wales ensured that PNG reached the quarter-finals nonetheless.
A huge thank you to Mick Wheeler, Joseph Varo, ITC and UK Aid for making this event happen. And a huge thank you to all the coffee roasters that joined us. The connection between PNG coffee, DRW and roasters has grown even stronger. We hope that it also inspires those reading to reach out and try some PNG coffee themselves. At the very least, it has created some lifelong Kumuls Rugby League fans…
Thanks to ITC and Freelance Videographer London for the video and photos