Category Archives: From the Road

Sulawesi Travelogue

| March 5, 2013

 

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Late last year I embarked on a whirlwind trip through Papua New Guinea, Java, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.   Though the whole trip was memorable, my time in Sulawesi was magical. Besides the fact that it is a place of remarkable beauty, culture, and coffee, I also consider it home.  Having spent most of my childhood in Sulawesi, I am always thrilled to return. 

I arrived with an empty stomach on the first flight of the morning so I asked my host, Darwis, if we could head into Makassar for a bowl of coto before the 8 hour drive to Toraja.  One of the awesome things about Indonesia is that practically every town has a unique dish (or two) that it is known for.  Makassar – its coto. Here it is :

Coto is made with beef or water buffalo. The broth utilizes rice water for

Traditionally made with water buffalo. A hearty broth with your choice of variety meats. Served with sticky rice steamed in coconut leaves, a spicy fermented soy sambal, and fresh limes.

Satiated, we hit the road.  First up the coast through Pare-Pare and then a turn inland and up through the ‘spine’ of South Sulawesi: passing through Enrekang, Makale, and finally arriving in Rantepao late in the night.

The steep rocky hills were a bit much for our ride.  We broke down in this village north of Rantepao.

The steep rocky hills were a bit much for our ride.

The following two days were spent traversing the windy steep hills north of Rantepao.  We set out to meet some of the most respected farmers and producers in Toraja, observing the fascinating system of trade and processing.  Coffee is mostly sold at the local markets, in a semi-processed state.  Because this coffee hasn’t been completely dried yet, it is of the utmost importance that a close inspection verifies that the coffee is free of mold and fermentation – two common culprits in these humid highlands.

Harvesting ripe cherry

Harvesting ripe cherry

The remaining processing determines a great deal of the flavors in Toraja coffee.  Traditionally, the parchment (the layer between seed and fruit) is removed while the coffee is wet and then dried on patios.  This process, giling basah (wet-hulling), results in a heavy bodied, earthy, and spicy cup – such as is the case with our delicious Sumatra coffee.

Hand sorting wet-hulled coffee, at the home of a farmer.

Hand sorting wet-hulled coffee, at the home of a farmer.

There is one producer that has developed a different method of processing, drying the coffee completely before hulling. This is common practice for the washed coffees of Central America and East Africa, but relatively rare in Indonesia. In addition, a painstakingly thorough system of quality control ensures that only the very best coffee makes the grade.

Coffee arrives as wet parchment, measured by the liter. The coffee first must pass a visual inspection.

Coffee arrives as wet parchment, measured by the liter. The coffee first must pass a visual inspection.

 

If the coffee passes the visual inspection, the drying is finished in one sample roaster. After hulling, the second sample roaster roasts the coffee for cupping. After passing the sensory evaluation, the coffee is purchased.

If the coffee passes the visual inspection, the drying is finished in one sample roaster. After hulling, the second sample roaster roasts the coffee for cupping. After passing the sensory evaluation, the coffee is deliveried to the drying facility.

This is one of the most elaborate systems of coffee process I have ever witnessed.  Needless to say, the results are fascinating – a cup with some of the character you might expect for the region: spicy, complex, and heavy, but with a distinct sweetness, brightness, and clarity unusual for Indonesian coffees.  We secured the purchase of a fantastic peaberry lot from the height of the harvest which is available now at all Vita locations and online.

Peru La Convención

| January 2, 2013

At the confluence of the Vilcanota and Yanatile rivers, there live a number of coffee-growing communities. Using organic methods, typica and yellow caturra are cultivated in the rich, clay soils. Thanks to the shade requirements of coffee cultivation, the forested area of this lush landscape has been preserved over generations.

Each cherry was distinct. We discovered jasmine-scented typica flowers and yellow caturra blossoms with melon aromas. After harvest, the cherries were pulped, fermented, washed and then sun-dried on solar driers. In a region prone to rain and high humidity, the drying process is the most critical step.

We sat down to a cupping with the farmers who grew this coffee. Their impressive attention to detail showed through in every cup. At that moment, it became clear that this particular coffee was the right fit for Vita!

Buy yours in our shop.

The Dogs of Gayo

| November 2, 2012

Happy Dog Day Friday! Our bean buyer Daniel took some time out of his whirlwind trip to Indonesia to pass along these great photos of the pups he’s met there. Say hello to the dogs of our Farm Direct Gayo friends.

Notes From the Road: PNG YUS

| October 26, 2012
The mist rolls into Yawan.

Our green bean buyer, Daniel, is currently traveling in Papua New Guinea. Here are his latest notes from the road:


Flowers were in bloom everywhere. Next year’s harvest! 
As I prepare for the next leg of my journey through the coffee lands of Asia-Pacific, I have a few moments to share a bit of what I’ve witnessed during my second visit to Papua New Guinea and the YUS Conservation Area.

This project is a collaboration between Caffe Vita and the Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Project (TKCP), aimed at improving the livelihoods of the farmers of the YUS Conservation Area through quality development and providing a market for their unique coffee. The Conservation Area is the first ever in Papua New Guinea and it protects 180,000 acres of diverse environment including pristine cloud forest that is the habitat of the endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo. The landowners who have pledged this area live in villages along the Yopno, Uruwa, and Som watersheds, with coffee representing their only major source of income. Caffe Vita’s purchase of the highest quality from last year’s crop was the beginning of what we hope to be a long and fruitful relationship that will benefit both conservation and community.

Berau shows us a tree he planted in January.

Though it has only been slightly over a year since my last visit to YUS, the farmers have made significant strides toward improving quality and strengthening the coffee community. Coffee gardens have been cleaned and pruned: seeds planted, shade cover improved, and drainage ditches dug. Knowledge and training has spread from village to village, broadening the high standards of picking, fermenting, and drying that we began to implement last year. Many new solar driers have been built and we have refined the designs further to make them more effective. 

A frame for a new solar dier with the farmers of Worin.
A new solar drier.

I was able to spend many hours speaking with the farmers of YUS and motivation is high after the purchase from last year is already having tangible effects throughout the area. Funds from the purchase have been invested in new pulping equipment, solar driers, and most significantly in the education and livelihoods of the future generations of YUS.

Future coffee growers of Mungku.

The past two weeks have been challenging yet rewarding and as I continue on my way towards Indonesia I leave with the knowledge that we have made significant progress towards implementing changes and proposing ideas that will continue to improve quality and strengthen the community of coffee growers of YUS.