Located in Melanesia in the southwest Pacific, New Caledonia cultivates one of the world's most expensive coffees. With a population of about 250,000, New Caledonia includes the main island Grande Terre as well as the Loyalty Islands and some smaller islands. The largest city is Noumea which is also the capital.
Coffee growing began in New Caledonia in 1860 when monks of the Marist Brothers order brought seeds and grew them. Two decades later coffee seeds were introduced from Bourbon Island (Reunion Island) also brought coffee plant seeds.
Koundji Estate Coffee is one attempt to revive New Caledonia's coffee industry and is produced by Domaine du Kouandji about twenty-five kilometers southeast of Noumea at the base of Kouandji Mount. Kouandji means “the place where the sun comes from.”
Grown on the Koundji Estate is an award winning coffee plant varietal called Leroy (also called Pointed Bourbon) that has garnered the nickname The President as it was regularly delivered to the Elysee Palace where it was a favorite of France's former president, Jacques Chirac. The coffee was also consumed by such renowned people as Sir Winston Churchill and Honore de Balzac.
The coffee plant varietals Liberica, Arabica and Laurina were cultivated, the latter two commercially. When the coffee plant disease called coffee leaf rust affected the crops in 1910 the varietal Robusta, valued for its disease resistance, was introduced to New Caledonia from Java.
While the coffee industry was significant to New Caledonia's three decades ago it dwindled and was replaced by other more lucrative products in part because of the intensive labor required for coffee cultivation.
Also see: Best Coffees In the World
The Leroy varietal, produced from the Arabica Laurina varietal brought by the Marist Brothers, is generally considered to be a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal though some believe it is a completely separate varietal that is the result of a natural cross between Arabica Typica and Mauritiana varietals.
The Leroy coffee plant is distinctively short with small and narrow leaves, short internodes and coffee beans that are pointed at one end. Though the Leroy varietal is very resistant to drought, it is highly susceptible to coffee plant disease and produces a relatively low yield (and thus limited availability).
The Leroy coffee beans have only about half the caffeine content of Arabica coffee beans. Another distinctive quality of Leroy coffee beans is that they only lose about sixteen to seventeen percent of their weight during coffee roasting while typical coffee beans lose about twenty percent of the weight.
This New Caledonia coffee, which is one of the world's southernmost grown coffees, is cultivated near the Tropic of Capricorn at an elevation of about 25 meters above sea level which is said to be equivalent to an elevation of about 950 meters above sea levels in the Equator region.
The coffee is typically wet processed and sun-dried, and has often been compared to Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. New Caledonian Arabica coffee has been praised for its “zingy” taste and aroma.
New Caledonia coffee plant ations cultivating Leroy coffee (also spelled Le Roy coffee) are located along the country's western (leeward) coast in areas such as Mount Dore, Kone and Sarramea.
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I'm coming to New Caledonia in 3 weeks and as I work in the coffee industry (Australia), Id love to visit the coffee plantation. I'm a writer for the coffee industry and have published books and training materials on espresso coffee.