Spotlight: Making the most of the beans


Robert Hamilton-Jones talks to one of the founders of Jasper Coffee, which roasts and packages gourmet Papua New Guinean coffee.

About three years ago, I stumbled upon an attractively packaged coffee in my local deli in Geelong, Australia. It was of PNG origin, although it was actually roasted and packaged in Australia by Jasper Coffee. I was amazed at how good it tasted. I had drunk some very good coffee on my trips to PNG, but nothing quite like this. The inception of our Made in PNG publication provided me with the ideal chance to try to discover Jasper’s secret.

‘Our Niugini Okapa coffee derives from a relatively small area in the Southern Highlands of PNG that has been certified as Fairtrade organic,’ says Wells Trenfield, who co-founded Jasper Coffee in 1989. ‘But before we place an order with our broker we always put several samples through an exhaustive tasting process.’

Once ordered, a consignment will subsequently arrive in so-called green bean form, meaning each coffee cherry or ‘bean’ has already been pulped, immersed in water then dried in the sun. As a result, the roasting of the beans is carried out in-house, at Jasper’s state-of-the-art roastery in inner Melbourne. The company’s website suggests this is a very meticulous process: ‘At our Roasting Bench, we capture copious points of data throughout the roast program, to analyse every roast of every bean, every day.’

Thus the quality of Jasper’s end product seems founded not just on ‘sourcing the highest quality Single Origin AA Arabica’ coffee beans, but also putting them through this ‘alchemy of roasting’.

Despite operating exclusively at the gourmet end of the market, the company’s client base now includes hundreds of cafes, retails stores and offices throughout Australia.

While these days Jasper Coffee sources coffees from ‘every corner of the globe’, Wells Trenfield says they’ve produced organic PNG ever since they started out in 1989 and now offer no less than five different PNG coffees.

Story continues after advertisment...

He goes on, however, to sound a cautionary note about the perception of PNG coffee in the global marketplace. ‘Australia knows PNG so it’s much easier to market PNG coffee there. However, most PNG coffee goes to the USA and Germany and just becomes part of a blend. PNG also produces very good tea, for instance from the Wahgi Valley, but there is little or no awareness of PNG as a tea producer internationally.’

Jasper Coffee’s wholehearted and sustained commitment to PNG implies that the country’s so-called green gold can match it with the best coffees on earth. But my discussion with its roasting wizard highlights there is a world of difference between a first-rate commodity, and a premium product.

Robert Hamilton-Jones is project director at Business Advantage International.

Further information:

This article first published in Business Advantage PNG 2011/2012

Leave a Reply