We had the pleasure to chat with Vikram Patel of Benchmark Coffee Traders about Bunum Wo, a new coffee from Papua New Guinea (PNG) with a very unique method of processing. Here at Firelight, we were really drawn to this coffee because of its exceptionally “clean” taste, which we would describe as a smooth mouthfeel without any earthy, thick sensations we sometimes find in Oceanic coffees.
What is processing in coffee?
In coffee, processing occurs once the coffee cherry is picked at peak ripeness and initially sorted. Processing includes everything from de-pulping the coffee seeds from their fruit pulp, through fermenting, washing (if applicable) and drying to a certain moisture level percentage.
Read below for our full transcript, where Vikram explains the processing method and its origins in further detail.
What inspired you to create the “Kula” processing method?
The idea of more rigorous processing, focusing on better drying and more sorting, came out of my communication with our roaster-partners. It became apparent that these were two manageable areas to focus on to improve and directly affect cup quality. Because of the relationship with the farmers and on-site milling, we were able to implement this additional processing and provide a higher quality coffee to our partners. After some time, I decided that putting a name on our additional processing was also a good idea just from a marketing and differentiation standpoint.
What sets it apart from other, less stringent, processing methods?
Most coffee in PNG is smallholder aggregated parchment or cherry. Even in the case of fresh cherry, the standard is 1 day fermentation. Additionally, most PNG coffees are not graded out. They are simply put into a mixed grade “A” or defect grade Y1, Y2, or Y3. The “A” grade is a mixture of 15+ screen sizes. Grading out coffees into several distinct sized remains less common, but coffee from the Bunum Wo Estate come as AA (18), A(17), B(16), C(15), Peaberry (4.5 long slot screen), and then the defect grades of Y1, Y2, and Y3. Bunum Wo Kula Peaberry sets itself apart from the less stringent processing methods all the way from cherry quality and traceability, to extra fermentation, better drying, and better sorting, and grading out into individual screen sizes. The additional social projects that these coffees support also differentiate this coffees from most PNGs.
Why did you choose this name for the processing method?
“Kula” is the name of a ceremonial gift exchange in PNG. Core elements center around honor, integrity, and caring for your neighbor. This ceremony highlights different underlying values in the gift versus the commodity economy. In this way, specialty coffee has distinguished itself from commodity coffee. I felt that this represented our values and that’s why I chose the name.
Is triple fermented coffee standard on the Bunum Wo Estate?
Yes, the three day ferment broken every 24 hours with a wash is standard. The raised bed-drying, double color sort, and double hand sort are unique to Benchmark Coffee Traders.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the processing of this coffee?
If it’s not already clear, I want to emphasize that this coffee is from traceable, hand-picked coffee cherries and the coffee plants grow under medium density shade. There is a combination of old growth trees and new shade tree plantings which are a combination of Albiza and Casuarina trees.
We would like to give a huge thanks to Vikram at Benchmark Coffee Traders for shedding some light on their unique method of fermenting and processing at Bunum Wo Estate! We are thrilled to partner with Benchmark to offer Bunum Wo, a triple-fermented washed coffee from Papua New Guinea. Get your bag today!