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…