Coffee is about people.
On both sides of the cup its about people. You’ve got baristas and customers, managers, roasters and finally we are starting to hear the stories of the importers and farmers. Creating shared moments is so important so we can hear from each other. What we like, and don’t like. How things work or how processes are supposed to happen. In these moments we can learn things from each other, we can make each other better, if we stop slow down and take in the moment.
I’ve learned so much over the past few years about this idea of connecting with people to learn and grow. To capture the moment when you're with someone to get better, to learn and to just enjoy. We’ve had the chance to have a few of these moments with coffee farmers in the past but hadn’t yet experienced it in their home area, where they could physically show us where they dried the coffee cherries or how the machines worked. Where we could touch the trees and smell the fermentation. I never thought that our fist experience on a coffee farm with a farmer would be in the mountains of Bail, Indonesia but then I never thought I would own a business let alone a coffee business either.
The day started with waking up early to our little Ibu making us breakfast at our Villa in Ubud. Normally we would take our moto out into town but that day we had a driver who picked us up for the two hour drive to the mountainous area of Kintamani. Traveling through the city seemed to take forever in the car but it was nice to be at ease instead of listening intently to Ashley (my wife) for Google Maps directions that lead us to driving on the wrong side of the road at least 3 times on the moto. Sujud A (our Indokom coffee contact) met us on the street because our driver got lost twice and in the process scratched his bosses car. We were finally there. Sujud A introduced us to the group leader Ketut Ngembeng and gave us a brief welcome to the farm and we signed in for the experience. He had us start in the main meeting area that was no bigger than 2 dorm rooms and explained this was where they would meet with all 46 farmers that were responsible for maintaining the land. The land is around 100 hectares which is around 250 acres and each hectare produces around 5,500-6,000 kg of red cherry. On site they are able to wash the cherries and put them into fermentation tanks where they ferment for 36 hours. After that they go into a pulper where the skin and fruit of the cherry is removed and what’s left of the cherry runs down a long chute where they are sorted good from bad. Bad cherries end up in a large pile right behind the chute and they, along with the skin and fruit of the cherries, become compost for fertilizing the coffee trees. After the cherries are sorted by hand, they go back into another fermentation tank where they are wet hulled (not the best for the beans but this is pretty typical for Indonesian coffees). Sujud A’s english was really good but I didn’t understand everything he said so there was another pulping machine and I think it’s where more of the mucilage is removed or the husk is removed. From there he walked us to their patios where they dry the coffee. This is super important to make sure the coffee is dried enough to make sure when it is bagged and then shipped it doesn’t develop mold on the bean (moisture needs to be between 10-12%).
After seeing all the processing we were ready to see some trees and some actual coffee beans. Sujud A walked us down from where the processing happens and Wayansyah, his business partner, joined us. The trees were much bigger than I expected, very tall and lush. I stopped while they spoke with Ashley and grabbed a fresh cherry off the tree. Normally the branches would be full of cherries but we had arrived just after the harvest season. I washed the cherry off and popped it in my mouth. It wasn’t very sweet but reminded me of the Cascara teas I’ve had. I’ll stick with drinking coffee rather than trying to eat it. This plot of land is between 1,350-1,600 meters above sea level and is divided up between all 46 farmers. Each farmer has 1-2 cows that are used to produce fertilizer for their trees along with the fruit from the coffee cherries. In addition to the coffee trees each lot has a minimum of 12 fruit trees to help with creating more income in the off seasons and then also creates shade and enriches the soil for the coffees. From what I could tell these trees produced Typica, Catimor and S-795 varietals (not really, I got that info after we left the farm) but all the trees on the farm are Arabica and everything is certified organic and rainforest alliance. From there we circled back to the meeting place, took a few more pictures and our first visit to the coffee farm had ended. Since it’s the end of the harvest there wasn’t coffee for us to cup but we are looking forward to the samples from their farm and hope that it will be something we can have in stock at Arcade. It was a shared moment I will remember for a long time.
It was really encouraging to see how much these guys were investing into their farm. You could tell how proud they were to be showing us, American coffee roasters, how much work they put into the cultivation of coffee. We asked so many questions trying to gain as much knowledge as possible to learn from the men who were on the front end of something we love and care about so much about. What ends up in your cup is based on how well these guys do with following all these intricate steps along the way. It’s crazy that we are connected with someone on the other side of the world, who we would normally have no reason to talk with and now because of a common bond in coffee we’ve created a moment that will have lasting affects for years.
Coffee is truly about people