Crimson Cup Seeks Out Coffee Relationships in Papua New Guinea

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Brandon Bir, a coffee sourcing and education manager from Ohio coffee roaster Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, recently spent several days cupping coffee and meeting farmers in Papua New Guinea. The goal was to gain a better understanding of local coffee production and establish direct trade relationships with farmers.

Crimson Cup seeks out new coffee relationships in Papua New Guinea
Our goal was to visit farmers, gain a better understanding of how they produce and export coffee and establish direct-trade relationships.

Columbus, Ohio coffee roaster Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea is working to establish direct-trade relationships with smallholder coffee farmers in Papua New Guinea.

Coffee Sourcing and Education Manager Brandon Bir, a licensed Q Grader, recently spent several days cupping coffee and exploring coffee-growing areas of the nation in the southwest Pacific, which occupies the eastern half of New Guinea, the world’s second-largest island.

“Every coffee-growing country has a different culture, but PNG is unique. Small coffee farmers are extremely independent, making achieving transparency difficult,” Bir said. “Our goal was to visit farmers, gain a better understanding of how they produce and export coffee and establish direct-trade relationships.”

Including a connection through Australia, it took Bir nearly a full work week to travel from Crimson Cup’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio to Port Moresby, the country’s capital. From the capital, he flew into Goroka, a central highlands city that is the capital of PNG’s Eastern Province.

In Goroka, he met up with a local coffee exporter and Brian Kuglame, general manager of the AAK Brothers Umbrella Cooperative. AAK is a central organization tying together three coops across the Western and Eastern Highlands. The name for each individual cooperative – Apo, Anga and Konga – is taken from a word meaning brother in the local language. As Bir learned, there are more than 850 local Papuan languages.

“We immediately cupped some coffees at a local exporter’s office,” Bir said. He also learned about PNG culture and how he should approach visits into the jungle to meet with coffee farmers. Over the next two days, he traveled to meet coffee farmers from the Goroka region.

“It was completely different from any place I’ve ever been to because of the tribal mentality,” he recalled. “The people were awesome! They greeted us in traditional garb and loaded us down with gifts of bananas, sugar cane and other fruits and vegetables when we left. Although they had Internet and a lot of modern amenities, their culture has retained much of its history and heritage, which made the visit doubly interesting.”

After visiting several farmers and collectors who gather and process coffee beans from individual farms, Bir returned to the exporter’s office, where coffee samples collected on the trip were roasted.

“We performed a cupping the last day we were there,” Bir said. “I learned a lot about the grading system in PNG and how it can relate to the quality of the cup.”

Before leaving, Bir conveyed Crimson Cup's commitment to purchase coffee from the co-op through its Friend2Farmer direct trade program. “Our goal is to strengthen our relationship with the farmers and AAK and enhance their efforts to increase the quality of their coffee.” he said.

When Crimson Cup receives the coffee in 2017, it will be used in the roaster’s signature blends.

Crimson Cup developed its Friend2Farmer direct trade program to ensure that farmers receive a fair share of proceeds from coffee sales. It pays an above-market premium to farmers, who can then invest in agricultural and community improvements. Crimson Cup coffee experts also collaborate with farmers on ways to improve the quality of the coffee and quality of live for farmers, workers and their communities.

About Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea

Columbus, Ohio coffee roaster Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea is Roast magazine’s 2016 Macro Roaster of the Year. Since 1991, Crimson Cup has roasted sustainably sourced specialty and craft coffee in small batches. The company also teaches entrepreneurs to run successful coffee houses through its coffee franchise alternative program, which includes a coffee shop business plan. Crimson Cup coffee is available through a community of more than 350 independent coffee houses, grocers, college and universities, restaurants and food service operations across 29 states, Guam and Bangladesh, as well as the company’s own Crimson Cup Coffee Houses. To learn more, visit crimsoncup.com

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Cheryl Claypoole
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Crimson Cup seeks out new coffee relationships in Papua New GuineaCrimson Cup seeks out new coffee relationships in Papua New Guinea