Monday, October 27, 2008

PNG Elimbari, Market Leaders and Blog Followers

Sometimes you've gotta laugh. I went to buy some coffee a few weeks ago and ended up getting some PNG Elimbari that I was told was roasted by Five Senses' recently set up Melbourne branch, though it was in another bag. So I'll attribute this coffee to them!

When it comes to PNG coffee on the Australian market, there is a broker that is basically the authority and there is a roaster that is the authority. That roaster is Five Senses. Dean set up the company after working in PNG and getting to know the local farmers. They started their direct trade program years before the phrase came to be prominent. And while we're talking about direct trade, I'll take this opportunity to point out Watts' take on it, if you haven't read it already.

A better name for 'direct trade' would be 'fair trade', seeing as the former results in the exchange of a sum of money that the farmer is happy with for coffee of the quality that the purchaser is happy with, whereas the latter results in the exchange of a fixed sum of money for coffee of unspecified quality. Pity about that whole 'fair trade' movement having the 'fair trade' name - maybe we should think about calling it 'fairer trade' or 'fairest trade'!

The point is that Five Senses' direct trade relationship has enabled them to get spectacular coffee from PNG in the past and the same is true for the Elimbari.

Brewed: Good body, mid level acidity, hints of tomato.
Espresso: Decent body, long finish, clean, sweet, hints of apricot.
Cappuccino: Average ability to cut through milk, but, amazingly, on a few occasions I was able to coax the fruit flavours into the cappuccino.

To date, I haven't dabbled much in trying to score coffees on this blog, preferring to describe and get acquainted with the various numerical score systems in my own time. However, I will mention that I tasted this coffee soon after a cupping of Costa Rican Cup of Excellence coffees at BBB. The Elimbari clearly trailed behind the top two, but was up there with numbers 3 through 9. On this basis, I think that it would be fair to say that this is a mid to high eighties coffee on the SCAA cupping form, which is a bit of a rarity on the Australian market.

And Another Thing ...

I must be like - totally - the best person in history or something. My "followers" list has tripled! To three!

I guess that I should add the "followers" watchumcallit, but to do that I'd have to switch to templates ... and the last thing that I want to do is to lose all of the links on the right-hand-side that I have spent an eternity cultivating for the benefit of y'all, dear readers. Help?

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At 12:33 PM, Blogger michelle said...

Hey Luca,

Agree with your comments re: 'fairer' trade. I think what the 5 Senses crew are doing is great stuff.

Dan brought some of the Elimbari to the last cupping we did at Hazel's. I was a fan - can't remember too much now, but I do remember a sweetness that was not quite brown sugar like, but was very pleasant.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger C-MAC said...


Great post mate. I had some of the Elimbari @ Liar Liar and enjoyed it greatly. More importantly, big ups for bringing up the fair/fairer trade thing. Five Senses recently bought out the next five years of production in a plantation in Bali to convince the farmers to plant the good crop not the high yielding crop, and to make it sustainable for them to do so. I tried the coffee. It is amazing AND the farmers get financial stability and a premium to market for their coffee. Really commendable!

[Nolan had a sample bag about a month ago but said he should have heaps early November... maybe something else to review on the blog?]


At 2:11 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Hi guys,

What I wrote was a total oversimplification of the FT v DT situation, but one that I think is pretty useful. Ethical coffee should not mean poorer quality coffee for the consumer. You can have both and I think that being paid a premium for good quality coffee is psychologically important for the farmer - wouldn't you much rather take pride in selling a great quality product that reaches the end consumer than take a fixed price for producing a product that is anonymously blended away into a cooperative's lot? If you listen to George Howell's interview on the CG podcast, he is adamant that he is going to put the name of the farm/farmer on each bag because, as he puts it, you can't imagine how important that is to them.

Cam, there's obviously a fair amount of self interest in Five Senses' actions. Over the past few years, great coffee from Indonesia has become harder and harder to get. I have heard rumours that Starbucks and the Japanese buy much of the top grade Mandhelings, for instance. Five Senses might well be entrenching themselves in Bali to guarantee a supply of good Indonesian coffee for the next five years. And good on them; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The farmers get a decent income stream that is (relatively) free from risk, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that their product is valued. Five Senses gets (almost) guaranteed access to (presumably) great coffee. The consumer gets to enjoy a decent cup of coffee, knowing that they have made a difference. How on earth can you call that anything but a fair trade?!



At 4:03 PM, Blogger yeeza said...

mmm... I liked that Elimbari. It was really clean from memory, something I'm finding that more and more in highish grade coffees. I also can't remember much about it from the cupping, except that I liked it and that it was v.clean. Should learn to document these one day. I've grown a liking for some of the latest PNG crops around lately... actually I can't remember having a bad PNG in recent months. Still got 10kg of Kimel to get through.

Re: DT/FT, great comments, and I'm lovin' the stuff Dean's doing in that area. I've been trying to find some sound FT coffee info lately, and it's a bugger to try and track down. More in regards to certification criterion etc. Don't know if you've blogged about it before but if you do have a link(s) let me know. So much hearsay, v.little actual truth floating around about the subject.

At 11:49 PM, Blogger C-MAC said...

DT/FT: Absolutely spot on, by my read. A bit of self-interest on both sides, but in a fair and sustainable way. Adam Smith would be proud. Sometimes I think trade can go awry when it attempts to be philanthropic - charity is commendable, but it isn't business - so these kind of win wins make me all warm and fuzzy. Pure philanthropy in business is too reliant on the benevolence of owner/managers. (IMO, etc)

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Yeah, you've gotta suspect that the indiscriminate FT drinking crowd would probably do more for the world if they bought whatever they wanted to, set aside 5 cents each time and then just donated it to coffee kids or fair crack. If you're going to do fair trade, do it properly.




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