ZEST COFFEE - A Story of Origin in Papua New Guinea Project Raggiana is creating flavour, building relationships and discovering the potential of Papua New Guinea coffee by way of producing small coffee lots (microlots). Specifically, it is exploring the effects of controlled, low oxygen fermentation within the processing of washed, selectively picked Typica grown on the Sigri Estate in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Visit www.zestcoffee.com.au/project-raggiana to learn more about Project Raggiana, or to place an order for the Project Raggiana coffee.
Directed & Filmed by: Andrew Northover
Produced by The View From Here
Executive Creative Director - John Calabro
Project Raggiana Coordination - Robert McDonald
Assistant Project Coordinator - Darren Stinson
Sigri Estate Manager - Sajith Shankar
W.R. Carpenter Group - Ajit Kalluvadi, John Sathya
Dedicated to the people of the Wahgi Valley
The children of the Waghi Valley
Upon accepting this role to tell the story of coffee at origin, a strong sense of concern hung over my shoulders about what I could potentially encounter. There was no lie that we were travelling to a third world country. The people we were set to meet lived without power, running water, or basic sanitation systems we've all come to accept as the norm. As a documentarian, what was I to do if I encountered child labour, oppression, or instances that were ethically questionable in the operations that were being conducted. I had a job to tell a story, but was adamant I would tell the story I was presented, and if that meant exposing unethical work practices, that is the story I would be telling. Then, we arrived.
Almost immediately, any prior sense of fear, doubt and worry was erased once met face to face with the warmth of the people of the Waghi Valley. Our first point of call was to inspect the crops grown within the forests of the Western Highlands, where numerous straw huts and guards were scattered throughout its footprint. Within moments, our presence was known, and the local children of the crop farmers exploded out from the trees to come and meet us and play games through the thousands of rows of cherry trees.
It was at this moment a turning point in my mind occurred, where it became clear that western civilisation's perspective on the rest of the world is heavily clouded and often a product of nothing more than fear of the unknown. An outsider looking in sees a disadvantaged group of children sleeping on the ground inside their family's huts. Limited access to medicine and education, and a diet that consists generally of a single meal per day, with incremental foraging/grazing as their appetites desire. We, as outsiders, would look at this and have that inner sense or desire to come and fix this. That it's wrong, and they need the benefits we've grown to take for granted.
But then you look at it relative to their situation. They live within a fenced compound, protected from Racals and dangerous figures alike. They're born into a thriving international export business; and although their days involve playing in the fields, tending to the families pets, chickens and crops, they're providing security to the plantations by acting as the eyes and ears preventing cherry thieves entering the lots (a common occurrence) whilst actively learning the operation of the business they've been fortunate enough to be born into, and hence guaranteed a successful career.
This is not necessarily how I would choose to raise my child on the shores of Australia, but within the highlands of Papua New Guinea, it cannot be ignored that these kids have their future careers setup for a life of comfortable success.
This is Robert from Sigri. He’s 9 years old and lives in a hut made out of woven ferns deep within the jungle on the edge of the Wahgi River in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Although we were unable to directly speak to each other, it amazes me how much can be said through simple gestures and basic hand actions.
He became my little camera assistant for the day, although was absolutely terrified of the menacing appearance of the drone flying overhead. After a few minutes I was able to show him the screen, what his house and world looked like from the sky, leaving him with an ear to ear smile that wouldn’t leave his face. Several hours later, an entourage of his friends arrived, and he was in his element. He was explaining to them in pigdgin what was inside the big black box, how it has propellers and flies through the sky with its own set of eyes and a face, and how it watches down from above. He described all of this was via actions and hand movements to a crowd of inspired faces.
Up until now, most of these kids had never even seen a picture of themselves until observing their portraits on the back of my camera. This was one of those moments that I know will stay with me forever.
John, House Servant
John was one of the first New Guineans we had the pleasure of meeting. His choice to work within the compound's owners quarters provided a safe haven away from the dangers of street life surrounding the estate. For a man who's dietary habits revolved around a single meal of sweet potatoes once daily, he would cook us breakfast, lunch and dinner, each of exquisite cuisine. Most surprisingly of all, is that he chose never to eat what he cooks, as nothing would make him as "big and strong" as sweet potato.
The only way you can describe Alex is "Black Duke Nukem". His role was to follow me around the estate, never leaving my side as to protect me and my equipment at all costs. The man was a total ball of energy, with muscle tone that'd be competitive in professional body building; yet his loyalty and compassion was outstanding to say the least. We couldn't speak to each other due to the intense language barrier, but that didn't stop us having hour long discussions about life, where we lived, and what life is like on the other side of the world. I showed him photos, videos, and told him stories in a way not dissimilar to charades. One of the hardest parts about returning to Australia was having to explain to Alex why I needed to leave.
If there was even an indicator for intelligence that existed outside of verbal communication, Marta would receive the highest acclaim. With a language barrier preventing any discussion or instruction whatsoever, Marta's aptitude and observational learning had her completely master the specific roasting technique developed by Zest's own Rob McDonald by nothing more than a few days of trial and error within the walls of the roasting lab. Such a gentle, humble being, Marta's natural ability is something that needs to be recognised outside of the walls where she works her magic.