|photo courtesy of Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo
We have received an encouraging report from our partner in Morobe Province that the first load of YUS conservation coffee has been safely flown from the Sapmanga airstrip to Nadzab and is now being awaiting its sister shipment at a facility in Goroka. The remaining coffee is being stored at Yawan, but due to unfavorable weather it has yet to be picked up. Sapmanga and Yawan are the two villages in the Uruwa that posess airstrips – making them the vital hubs of transport for this coffee. As I witnessed first hand, the flights out of these grass, muddy airstrips can be highly irregular due to the weather and whims of the aviation company. Our hope is for the remaining coffee to be picked up from Yawan and delivered to Goroka, where it will be milled and bagged for a scheduled September shipment across the Pacific to Seattle.
For those of you not familiar with the project, Caffe Vita has joined the Woodland Park Zoo to work towards strengthening the longevity and success of the first ever conservation area to be established in Papua New Guinea, the YUS Conservation Area. Named after the three main rivers that flow through the area, the Yopno, Uruwa, and Som carve majestic valleys through this rugged terrain- one of the most biologically diverse in the world. The conservation area was only made possible by the cooperation of over 35 villages in the region and the landowners who have agreed to set aside their valuable resources for future generations. In addition, we are donating $1 to the Woodland Park Zoo for every bag of Zoo Special Reserve coffee beans we sell at our cafes or online.
The people of YUS are primarily subsistence farmers, cultivating an array of sweet potatoes, taro, cassava, greens, and fruits. In addition, a few cash crops such as tobacco, betel nut, and coffee are grown, but finding a potential buyer can be a challenge. YUS is remote, no roads lead to this region, so all goods heading towards the market must be flown (or walked). The cost and availability of airfrieght can make selling these crops close to impossible, yet currency is necessary for education and healthcare. For the improvement of these communities and the preservation of their land, we aim to provide a consistent market for their remarkable coffee.
Our goal is to establish the structure necessary for the transport of this coffee out of YUS and onwards to Seattle, where we hope the roasted coffee will find a following — the success of this project depends on it. For a sneak peak of the flavor profile you can expect when the coffee lands, we will be hosting a cupping of the coffees from each of the villages we visited. Details to be posted on this blog soon. In the meantime, you can enjoy this slideshow from our recent trip.
Ah, springtime is here, which means the arrival of new crop coffees from Central America and Africa. Last week, we unloaded a container from Ethiopia, including some lovely Yirgacheffe from the Kochere district, and today saw the arrival of our very own farm-direct Guatemalan coffee beans from Finca Nuevo Vinas. (Take a look at the source report and photos from our trip to Guatemala back in February.) The ripe cherries were harvested less than two months ago; this farm-direct coffee is extra fresh.
We are in the process of cupping and developing roast profiles for these coffees, and we’ll let you know when they are ready to brew and pour. Stay tuned!
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…
Much to my delight, Caffe Vita was invited to attend the first ever Indonesian Specialty Coffee Auction, which took place last week in Bali. Not quite knowing what to expect I made the journey half way around the world to see, smell, and taste what could be considered the finest from one of the largest producers of coffee in the world. Submissions throughout the archipelago had been collected, with only twenty-three coffees making the grade, of which seven were small lots of the notorious luwak (civet) coffee.
Before the festivities began I wanted to gain some knowledge about the local production of coffee, so I went on a day trip through the Kintamani highlands, a volcanic plateau with an average elevation of 1000-1700 meters.
The agricultural production on the island has been well organized for generations through the subak abian, which functions similar to a co-op and is based on the principle that happiness is a result of maintaining a healthy relationship with other people, the environment, and the gods. The farmer can utilize the subak abian to process and sell their harvest, which in addition to coffee may include cloves, orange, cocoa, and rice.
A leading member of the subak abian, Mr. Astika Nyoman III, accompanied us on the trip. Here he is describing the various plants and shade cover that grow in harmony with the coffee, and some of the challenges that face the local farmers.
One challenge has been a lack of water for processing, but as a response the natural method (in which the entire cherry is sun-dried on a raised bed) is now being used for a portion of the harvest and the results have been interesting — a cup with huge chocolaty body, brandied fruit aromas, and good sweetness. This spirit of experimentation is encouraging in a region that is constantly challenged by the ever present whim of nature.
More from Bali to come soon…