Lucas Roasting Co. is tucked into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and today’s coffee is grown in another valley, on the opposite side of the planet, in Papua New Guinea. We’re looking at Lucas’s Nebilyer Valley, a coffee from the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
I didn’t see a listing for this coffee currently on Lucas’s website, but a quick Google search pulled up a page, so I’m not sure if there was a website glitch or if Lucas isn’t offering this for sale just yet, but drop them a note on Twitter and I’m sure they’ll let you know! If they do have it available,
By all accounts, there are fewer wilder and more remote parts of the world remaining than Papua New Guinea (PNG). A large island north of Australia, PNG is remote, poor and yet ironically extremely expensive to travel around (hotel and other prices are insane) and the weather is crazy, the infrastructure is bad and there are tribes and clans warring with one another at any given time. There is a lawlessness that permeates PNG and yet, there is also coffee!
PNG has been growing coffee since the late 1800’s. A lot of the problems in the last paragraph affect the quality of coffee from the area, which can be sketchy, and like other coffees from that part of the world (Java, Indonesia, Sulawesi, Sumatra), you can get some very unique character in the cup. The Western Highlands area of PNG where this coffee is grown has lots of small farmers who pool their coffee at washing stations, and, indeed, this is a wet-process/washed coffee rather than a wet-hulled coffee that you may expect from this part of the world. Growing altitude is around 1350masl and varietals include Bourbon and Typica. Nebilyer Valley has been the epicenter of 40 years of war between the Kulga and Ulga tribes, but they apparently decided on peace in 2014 and have gotten back to the business of growing coffee. 1
Lucas tells us to, “Expect a deep chocolate note with medium acidity and body in this light medium roast.” The aroma on this cup is pretty light… I was getting a distinctly apple juice aroma from the cup, but not much else. I haven’t had much coffee from PNG, but the ones I have had, this one included, always have a big, full presence in the mouth. This is a substantial coffee that floods the palate, and even though it’s not a “heavy” coffee in its flavors, it has a big presence.
There is a good balance between sweetness, some acidity and an herbal, plant-like bitterness that I commonly find in coffees from this part of the world. All these components add a lot of complexity to the coffee and the flavors are not your typical Latin American or African ones. This Nebilyer Valley selection has a decent amount of malic acidity, giving it an apple juice sort of character both in feel and a bit in flavor, but there are citrus notes that lend more brightness, too. As the cup cooled I picked up a bit of sweet lemon. There is some milk chocolate in the roast notes and something that I felt like was a grain-like flavor… like a bran flake or something to that effect… maybe that would be better described as a malty sweetness? The latter part of the sip and the aftertaste feature that herbal bitterness, which isn’t off-putting in the least. It balances the sweetness in the cup and lingers on the palate for quite some time in the aftertaste. The finish is a bit dry and my tongue and back of my throat had a somewhat dry feel between each sip, so there may be a hint of astringency in the cup.
Reading through my description above doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of a cup of coffee, but people who like coffees from this part of the world understand that the flavors are unique, to say the least. I enjoyed drinking this coffee and none of my descriptors are flaws, in my opinion. PNG’s can just be a little weird compared to, say, a Costa Rican or Ethiopian coffee and that’s exactly what makes people love to drink them so much!