This article follows straight on from the Sulawesi coffee, also in Indonesia, so some of you will have read that and so already be familiar with how and when coffee was introduced in Indonesia. A few more facts have been added, so read on!
For those who haven’t read my previous entry – what are you waiting for? Well, ok, perhaps after you have read this one then. So, here is a little bit about Indonesian coffee.
COFFEE PRODUCTION IN INDONESIA
It was the Dutch that firstly introduced the coffee plant to Indonesia when they tried to experiment with growing it in Indonesia’s various regions. The Typica Arabica seedling plants arrived in Indonesia in 1699 from Yemen.
So, the seedlings grew and in 1711 the first coffee was exported from Indonesia by the Dutch East India Company and took its first journey from Java to Europe. By 1717, Indonesia had shipped 2000 pounds and outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, it became a region where coffee was widely cultivated.
In the 18th century, the East Indies became the most important coffee supplier in the world, and it was not until the 1840s that Brazil took over the stronghold on supply. By themed 1870s the Dutch East Indies company expanded from Java into Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, and Timor with coffee in Sulawesi believed to be planted slightly earlier during the 1850s. North Sumatra’s highlands saw coffee first grown in 1888 and the Aceh area (Gayo highlands) near Lake Laut Tawar followed in 1924. The large Dutch coffee plantations were also established in the late 1800s in eastern Java and these were nationalised in the 1950s not long after independence.
Today, most (90%) of Indonesia’s coffee is still grown by smallholders on farms which average one hectare. Many farmers’ cooperatives and exporters are internationally certified to market organic coffee and there are more than 20 varieties of Coffea arabica being grown commercially in Indonesia. Taken as a whole, Indonesia is one of the fourth largest coffee producing countries in the world.
I also think it is really important to note that all arabica coffee in Indonesia is picked by hand whether it’s grown by smallholders or medium sized estates. After harvest, the coffee is processed in a variety of ways. One of the most famous processes takes place in Sumatra and is called Giling Basah.
SUMATRA’s COFFEE PRODUCTION
Sumatra boasts being the sixth largest island in the globe and along with Borneo and Java it forms part of the three main islands of Indonesia.
So, as mentioned above, coffee production on the island of Sumatra is thought to have begun 1880s, near lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world!! It is fair to say, that the soil around the area would be very fertile and very suited to coffee growing.
There are three main coffee growing regions on Sumatra island; the Aceh province in the north, the region around Lake Toba, as mentioned above, and to the south the Mangkuraja area.
If you are familiar with Sumatran coffees, then you have definitely come across – more often than not – the name ‘Sumatra Mandheling’. It was – and still is to an extent – common that coffee from Sumatra was sold under this name which refers to an ethnic group from the island. Mandheling is in fact a trade name and coffees that come under the name are mainly from the north of the island.
Indonesian coffee and particularly Sumatran coffee are also known for the unique method of processing their coffee. This method is called ‘Giling Basah’ and is basically a hybrid processing method with elements of the washed and natural processes. The name is a literal translation for ‘wet grinding ‘, and most small-scale farmers in Sumatra use this process. This process creates complex cup, usually woody and spicy. The process also seems to reduce acidity and increase body so, most of these coffees tend to be heavy-bodied.
THE KOPEPI KETIARA COOPERATIVE – location and habitat
The Kopepi Ketiara cooperative is located in the Gayo Highlands of Sumatra, specifically in the district of Takengon and Bener Meriah in central Aceh. The cooperative is surrounded by the Gunung Leuser National Park straddling the border of North Sumatra and the Aceh provinces. The Park is a rich habitat of mammals, birds and thousands of species of flora. It is also where the few remaining Sumatra Orangutans live.
Unfortunately, like in many such places, the eco-system in Leuser is currently under threat with wildlife trade, illegal logging with the biggest threat being that of the palm oil industry.
IBU RAHMAH - founder
The cooperative was founded back in 2009 by a lady named Ibu Rahmah who started off as a farmer and coffee collector (or ‘broker’). She is now the manager and chairperson of the cooperative and has to this day inspired many women. When the cooperative was founded, a large percentage of the members were women and this is what inspired the cooperative to form a kind of group stemming from the main cooperative, so an affiliated association of just women members. These members’ coffees are kept separate and sold as Ipak Bensu.
The women forming this part of the cooperative were inspired to band together to market their amazing coffee for a premium. Ms Rahmah still incentivises the cooperatives members by way of paying well above the internal market price and creating many community programs to encourage the farmers to stay within the cooperative. Some of these incentives include workshops to make organic fertilisers, workshops to learn how to maintain their equipment properly, farm rejuvenation practices and seedlings donations. There have even been scholarships given to young women (and men) to attend university.
We are told that Ibu Rahmah ‘is a force in the local coffee industry in spite of being a woman in the traditional, male dominated Gayonese society’!
THE FARMS – THE PEOPLE
All of the farms that contribute to the cooperative produce 100% shade grown coffee and the average farm is around 1.2 hectares per member. The cooperative is Fairtrade and Organic certified. The women, as members of the cooperative, apart from being able to continually invest in their own farms to continue to grow and thrive, they are also able to access education and health care for themselves and their families.
Definitely things we take for granted, maybe not so much nowadays with the whole Covid pandemic which hopefully has made some of us think, act and react slightly different to the life we have.
Our importer who has – obviously – visited Ketiara, says that the cooperative is one where, when you visit, you can truly tell that the members of the community are happy. It’s not a coincidence then, that the word ‘Ketiara’ actually means ‘make it happen’ and this group of incredible women are doing just that!
We love the coffee these women are producing and have no qualms about supporting them; they are hardworking, inspirational, produce amazing coffee and are able to help their families and through this have a better quality of life.
Now it’s your turn!