On the 28th of August, our head roaster Mr Ben Fox, travelled to the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. .
The main purpose of this trip was to meet with some of our direct trade farmers and producers of our coffee. NOWEK Coffee Producers are a family owned business that has been passed through the generations. The four days spent there were full of sight seeing and engaging in the culture of the Gorokan people. Joe at NOWEK gave Ben a tour of the processing mill, right from the delivery of cherries to the wet mill, all the way through to depulping, drying, dehulling and the sorting of the seeds.
NOWEK Coffee Company believe in maintaining a sustainable industry – so they have created the Growing Futures Seedling program. The idea is to distribute free coffee seedlings to the local community and primary schools with the hope that they will one day benefit from the cash crop. This also helps the community get involved in and industry that creates an income for more than 50% of the population.
On Ben’s second day in PNG he travelled to a local primary school to deliver the seedlings and meet with the local kids. They were very excited to meet this fair skinned gentleman and after a quick chat he was off to the plantation to see the coffee trees. After a gutful of sweet coffee cherries, it was back to the mill for a cupping session of some of the samples that Ben and crew had roasted the previous day. Joe has been experimenting with different fermentation techniques which cupped beautifully, and we are very excited to see how they progress in future.
On day three Ben took a hike up the mountains to view the scenery from above and after a breathtaking view of the land and becoming one with nature, Ben and co. returned to the village to witness the tribe of the Asaro Mudmen perform a ritual dance and explain the history of their culture.
There are a few different tales of how the Asaro Mudmen originated. The most popular theory is that during an invasion from an enemy tribe, the people of the village were forced to flee their homes. In an attempt to escape, they crossed through a muddy river but once they emerged, covered in mud, the enemy tribe thought they were spirits. Being very superstitious, the tribe fled in fear of being attacked by these spirits. Once the Asaro had escaped, they returned to their village to inspect the damage only to find the enemy tribe had taken over. The mudmen used their new scare tactic to chase away the enemy tribe and adopted the superstition by creating masks made from clay or pebbles. The legend was born and the Asaro Mudmen became a popular fable of the Papua New Guinean history. Even today, the Asaro mudmen perform a ritual dance for tourists to experience.
On the last day in PNG there was no relaxation to be had. Ben was up early and at the mill to help the boys load up the sea container with our shipment of coffee. It was a warm, humid day so it was quite the workout lugging the 60kg bags in and stacking them wall to wall, floor to ceiling. The guys definitely had the system sorted so made light work of it while Ben sweated and puffed his way around. Once loaded, Joe rewarded Ben with a scenic drive up the Eastern Highlands Highway for another spectacular view of the landscape.
The sun had set over the beautiful mountains, so it was time to get a few beers under the belt and a good night’s sleep before the flight the next day. The Bird of Paradise hotel kept Ben well fed, well rested and hydrated with their locally brewed Southern Pacific beer. Winning!
Until next time PNG #peace