Monthly Archives: October 2010

Coffee production in Bajawa

| October 22, 2010
I’m in the domestic terminal at Denpasar, Bali awaiting my flight to Surabaya, Java. A haze of clove cigarette and incense smoke has filled the room, blurring my vision. I’ve just arrived on a propeller plane, Merpati (Pigeon) Airlines, from Flores, an island in the Indonesian archipelago which has seen rapid progress in the realm of quality Arabica production.  

Coffee growing on the side of the road in Bajaw.

First introduced by explorers from South Sulawesi in the 18th century, and then further propagated by the Portuguese in the 1920’s, the species has thrived in its ideal setting: rich volcanic soil, hectare upon hectare of highlands exceeding 1200 meters, and lush shade cover, but until recently this coffee has remained unknown to the rest of the world due to a lack of processing prowess and infrastructure. Fortunately, the last five or so years has seen a renaissance of coffee in Flores, with research prompting the development of facilities to improve the quality and thereby the demand. Consequently, farmers have seen a steady rise in the price they are paid for their cherries with the additional income resulting in better roads, schooling, and health care. This progress has been seen primarily in the Bajawa region, thanks to the enthusiastic support of the local government.

Turning the parchment to ensure even drying

Within Bajawa there are 14 co-ops that provide farmers with processing equipment including pulpers, fermentation tanks, and raised beds for drying. These facilities are strict in their acceptance of ripe cherries and are dedicated to organic farming practices. Compost is made at each co-op from a fine mix of coffee pulp, dried manure, leaf litter, and other vegetable waste. Average farm size is 0.5 to 1 hectare, and a number of other crops including citrus, banana, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and cassava share the soil.

Coffee growing among clothes lines and other crops
There are currently two main processing techniques used in Bajawa: fully washed, a la Central America, which results in a clean, heavy bodied cocoa spiced coffee with a hint of citrus acidity, and the other is the more traditional wet-hulled coffee, similar to Sumatra, a style which produces an even heavier bodied cup, often with pungent earth and fruit qualities. In addition, some research is being done with the pulped natural method, and the preliminary results have been quite promising. If the project is a success, it will mean that far less water will be needed to process the coffee, saving a very important resource for other uses. 


Caffé Vita Supports HiwathOween and so should you…

| October 22, 2010

Get all Halloween-y a week early, have some fun, and do some good. The Hiawatha Artists and our friends at Café Weekend are hosting an open house and fooddrive this weekend. Festivities are from 3-8:30 pm. Between 3-6 pm, Café Weekend will be serving free Caffé Vita coffee in exchange for a donation to the community foodbank. Café Weekend is at 851 Hiawatha Place S…

See you there!

Sunrise in Sanur

| October 20, 2010
The day before the auction a group of international and local judges, including myself, were asked to cup the twenty-three coffees blindly and give them a score using a standardized cupping form. It was an ardous affair, with three rounds of cupping lasting through the morning and well into the afternoon. There was no way to distinguish which were the Luwak coffees, affirming that being passed through the digestive tract of a small mammal does not impart a distinct characteristic to coffee.

Despite being an auction supposedly representing the best of Indonesia, we encountered a number of defects; highlighting the difficulty of selecting and sorting out only the finest beans. Still, it was a joy to participate in this process as the coffees were very diverse and at times quite unique. Some were obviously from Java and others had that classic Sumatra profile, but there were many that defied categorization.

At the end of the day the scores were tallied and the identities of the coffees were revealed. Unfortunately, no entries from the islands of Sulawesi or Papua made it into the auction due to the time of harvest and difficulties shipping the coffee. Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Flores were all present and though many of them were quite good there weren’t any true standouts. It was a valuable experience however; as the feedback provided by the judges will help improve future coffee auctions in Indonesia.
On the day of the auction, a number of other buyers joined and all of the coffees were re-cupped with their identities and scores revealed. My favorites all hailed from Sumatra and seeing how Caffé Vita already has a stellar Sumatran coffee from Gayo, I participated rather passively throwing up my number occasionally to have a little fun. Not all of the coffees sold, but a few of the Luwak coffees fetched upwards of $70 per kilo.

When all was said and done, I headed to the beach and had a drink with a nice fellow from Rainforest Alliance, discussing the work they are aiming to accomplish with various certifications throughout Indonesia. That night I was able to dine with a number of producers from Indonesia including some partners in our Organic Sumatra Gayo River project. We called it an early night, as the next day promised an exciting voyage to the island of Flores…