gayo coffee farmers

Gayo, Most exported specialty coffee


Sumatra is the largest export coffee producing region in Indonesia. Based on statistical data in 2017, more than half of the country’s coffee exports were Sumatra Coffee. Most of them were robusta coffee from Lampung, the southernmost province of Sumatra. The most popularly exported specialty coffee in Indonesia, however, is Gayo Coffee; followed by Mandailing Coffee. Both are also grown in Sumatra.

This situation is certainly unique, the earliest coffee plantations in Indonesia were actually in Java. That arabica coffee first grown in Batavia (Jakarta), West Java. In 1699 there was an export activity to Europe by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1717.

A rust plague killed off most of the coffea-arabica plantation stocks in Java in the late 1880s. Which then many farmers choose to grow coffee-robusta. Coffee plantations have also decreased due to the large number of residential developments in Java. Meanwhile, farmers prefer to plant other commodities at that time.

The remaining Javanese coffee plantations are including those in Jember, Banyuwangi, Tawangmangu, and Temanggung. Most of them are specialty coffees, both Arabica and Robusta, although they are not as popular as Gayo Coffee.

Could Java Coffee be on the same level as Gayo Coffee?

Coffee and its specialties

Coffee becomes one of the most likely beverages in the world because of its character. Each region has its own characters. This will distinguish the flavor profile, taste, and aroma of a cup of coffee. The character itself appears according to where it grows. It happens because Coffea—the coffee tree—is able to absorb aromas all around the environment.

For example, the taste profile of a cup of Sumatran Gayo Arabica coffee. This coffee is popular for consumption and export from Indonesia, strong and complex. Its body and strong aroma and very mild bitter taste follow the low acidity. With a hint of spice perfect for gourmet coffee blends.

Meanwhile, Sulawesi’s Toraja coffee is different with a more complex taste. Most are full-body cups of coffee with notes of dark chocolate and hints of ripe fruit. Toraja coffee is suitable for those who avoid bitter taste.

place affects taste

The difference in taste and aroma in Gayo and Toraja coffee is because both are grown in different places. Gayo Arabica coffee comes from Aceh—the northernmost part of Sumatra—the fertile highlands. There the farmers also grow certain fruits and spices such as pepper.

Besides, Toraja coffee is a coffee with an expansive aroma due to the influence of various spices. They grow together in volcanic soil in the northern highlands of South Sulawesi. Could you imagine how it tastes?

Simply by looking at the differences between these two coffees, anyone would have been able to describe the variety of coffee flavors in Indonesia. Besides Gayo and Toraja, Indonesia also has specialty Flores Bajawa, Bali, Mandailing, and Lampung coffees, and many more not-so-known coffees.

As a tropical country with thousands of islands, almost every region in Indonesia has its own coffee beans. Each coffee has a distinctive flavor profile, all of which are unique. Thus, Gayo coffee is more popular because it already has a good coffee processing system. From picking to selling, better than some other places.

coffee as part of life

For most of Gayo people, coffee has indeed become a part of their life. It is a hereditary heritage that has been entrenched. However, as previously mentioned, each region in Indonesia has its own unique flavor profile coffee, including Java, Indonesia’s southernmost island.

Actually, the specialty coffee from the remaining Javanese plantations has recently begun to attract people’s attention, including Temanggung Java Coffee. Lies in a mountainous and lowlands area in Central Java, local farmers are able to plant both Arabica and Robusta coffee in Temanggung.

Temanggung Arabica grows in the highlands where there are several volcanoes, while Temanggung Robusta is grown in the lowlands. A young farmer from Temanggung Cahyo Pratomo said Temanggung coffee has a hint of complex spices, especially for Arabica.

“The mountainous farmers in Temanggung grow cloves and tobacco alongside with coffee,” he said, adding that this condition makes the coffee has its complex spices aroma. “Meanwhile, Temanggung Robusta has a bold body thicker than most Robustas in Indonesia, with a chocolate-like sugar browning aroma.”

Has Its Potential

Gayo coffee becomes the most popularly consumed and exported coffee throughout Indonesia because they already have a very strong chains of coffee process. For decades, they already have their system and expertise to grow, harvest, process, pack, and distribute their commodities.

“This is unlike to farmers in Temanggung generally working solitary,” Cahyo explained. “Almost of them also pay less attention to the quality of the coffee they harvest.”

He who tried so hard to improve the quality of coffee beans in Temanggung by applying the “ripe cherries harvesting” method had suffered rejection from most old local farmers had been growing coffea-trees for decades in that areas.

For your information, “ripe cherries harvesting” method is a harvesting method that is carried out when the coffee cherries are completely ripe. As you can surely guess, ripe cherries, with a good processing, would make a better coffee bean than the unripe ones.

“The method (ripe cherries harvesting) surely would produce premium coffee beans with an excellent quality is rejected since it takes longer to harvest than the common method used by local farmers,” he urged. “Sadly, I was also unable to ensure them that there would be fair-priced buyers for Temanggung premium coffee bean they produce.”

The rejection, however, did not make him quit. Failing to approach the old farmers, Cahyo tried to push his luck by approaching farmers’ children. Persuading them several times, he finally got some young farmers as his ages who were interested. Those efforts were paid off.

A Fine Meeting with Kopen Indonesia

The biggest obstacle for Temanggung farmers Cahyo actually realize, especially for premium types of coffee beans, is the sales. This is what later he is main focus became: how to elevate sales! It is not just because of the profit, sales would also raise other farmers’ trust.

As we have seen, most of the farmers in Temanggung send their coffee beans at the same price for any quality to the factory through middlemen. Cahyo tries to avoid it. So, he needs buyers who value his premium coffee beans and are willing to buy in large quantities at a fair price.

That’s when Cahyo met Reza Sarsito, the owner of PT Kopi Persada Negeri or commonly known as Kopen Indonesia. During the meeting, Kopen Indonesia ordered six tons of Temanggung Arabica coffee to be exported. According to him, that was just the beginning since they would continue the partnership ahead.

coffee bean supplier

gayo coffee packing

Kopen Indonesia is a coffee beans supplier based in Central Java. The company, which was officially established in July 2018, is known as a supplier of various coffee beans. They also sell coffee wholesale and retail for several coffee shops in Indonesia.

Not only has the local market, in the past year, Kopen Indonesia also started to export its products to a number of regions in Asia and Europe. Kopen Indonesia‘s flagship product mostly demanded by the export market is Gayo Arabica, followed by Java Coffee’s Temanggung Arabica.

Kopen Indonesia usually goes directly to coffee farmers’ plantations in various regions in Indonesia to reach out the best and most trusted coffee beans by seeing its whole process from harvesting, sorting, post-picking processing, to packaging.

“Pay attention to harvesting, good processing, and good selling price will certainly create fair trade between coffee farmers and entrepreneurs in Indonesia,” Cahyo admitted, convincing that one day Java Coffee would again be treated like Gayo Coffee.

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