Category Archives: Indonesia

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.

Sumatra Gayo River – New Crop Arrival

| January 26, 2012




As always, the arrival of new crop Farm Direct Sumatra Gayo River is a cause for celebration, particularly when we take into consideration the challenges facing our farmers and producing partners in Aceh, Indonesia. The damaging weather patterns continue to hamper production, to the tune of a nearly thirty-percent drop over the past two seasons. The primary cause for this decline has been higher-than-average rainfall during the critical blossoming and ripening stages of development.

A period of dry weather is necessary to stimulate a timely and consistent flowering, and the extended rains have led to a scattered harvest with low yields. As a result, prices are higher than ever, but this coffee is worth it! We have transitioned into this new crop and it is one of the best yet, featuring everything we love about the Gayo profile — syrupy body, blackberry sweetness, and herbal complexity.

Pick up a fresh bag of these rich, organic beans at any Caffe Vita cafe or online.

Now Roasting : Papua New Guinea

| February 22, 2011

We are pleased to have, for a limited time, an exceptional coffee from the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Kainantu district. A majority of this coffee was grown on the Agoga Plantation, with additional cherries contributed by small holders from the Onaka Grower’s Association. Ripe cherries from bourbon, mundo novo, and arusha trees are harvested and sent to the wet processing facilities on the same day. They are washed, pulped, and fully submerged in spring water for a 36-hour fermentation, after which they are washed again, and then laid to dry on raised beds.

This meticulous processing results in a clean, sophisticated cup with sparkling citrus acidity, and layers of savory fruit flavors: plum, cherry tomato, and blackcurrant. The aroma has a soft floral quality, reminiscent of chamomile; the mouthfeel is vibrant yet anchored by the syrupy caramel body, and the finish lingers of candied orange zest.

Purchase at any of our cafe locations or online here

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…