I learned how to fertilise my coffee trees with the use of a 51/2 -oz fish tin – “tinpis” in Melanesian Pidgin. In the old days, before the foreigners arrived, Papua New Guinea highlanders lived a feast or famine sort of diet. Root vegetables and steamed greens, with occasional protein binges when an animal was slaughtered for a feast, a tribal truce or other special occasion. When foreigners came up from the coast, they brought fish with them, tinned and conserved, oily and salty...a beloved new staple and measure of trade. Pay rates or loans could be measured in tins of fish. But I learned how to measure fertiliser this way....xxx tins of NPK after pruning, xxx tins of lime or zinc etc sprinkled lightly around the drip-line of a tree....
My teacher was a venerable old gentleman, Sir ---. He taught me these lessons.
“We’ve had the first rains Shirin, so now is the time to apply…”
“Two small tinpis of this and then one tinpis of that…”.
Sir --- also taught me to prune in his pragmatic way.
“Now Shirin, the harvest is done and we’ve got to stump back the trees. I don’t want to see you crying for them when you watch how much wood we chop off, it’s for their own good, or we won’t have fresh growth for the cherries next season!”
All these years later, I’m so happy to be able to keep the PNG thread alive, and carry what I consider to be one of the world’s greatest coffee treasures: a plantation coffee from the Western Highlands Province, Sigri AA. It’s one of the greats, this farm.
As another one of my teachers - a Californian giant in the world of specialty coffee - famously said: “every blend should contain New Guinea coffee”.
I couldn’t agree more.