Coffee Trip to Ruteng, Flores

written by Georgius Audrey Teja

Coffee was brought to Flores, when the first Portugese explorer reached Indonesia in the 16th century, to find spices in the Indies. The explorers found out that Flores has the suitable geographics for coffee to grow. Until this day, Flores is known as one of the coffee producing regions, and is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands in East Indonesia. The island itself has many coffee producing regions, West Manggarai being one of the many, and this is where we had our journey in search of the coffee, together with Tuang Coffee.

Tuang Coffee, Ruteng, Nusa Tenggara Timur
(from left) Mikael Jasin, Georgius Audrey, Andre

We flew to Flores, from Jakarta to Labuan Bajo on March 15th, where we were greeted by Andre, the owner of Tuang Coffee, and the Processing Facility manager, Ferdi. Andre, has a vision of helping the local farmers to know the true value of their coffee through education, and wants to teach the farmers to only pick ripe cherries, which then will ensure the quality of the coffee. He also wants to help the welfare of these local farmers, through purchasing beans at a fair price.

Our first day in Flores, we headed for Ruteng, Tuang Coffee’s processing facility, which took 3 to 4 hours from Labuan Bajo. Through the paddy fields and hills, Ruteng is completely different as compared to Labuan Bajo. It is known to be the 2nd coldest town in Indonesia, with the average temperature of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Drying Beds at Tuang Coffee 

Mbohang, Manggarai, Nusa Tenggara Timur 

The very next day in Ruteng, we went to the nearest farms which took us 2 to 3 hours to get there. These farms are located at a height of 1.400 - 1.500 MASL, in a village called Mbohang, Gulang and Pering. The coffee plants were in a good condition, looking quite healthy with no CBB- Coffee Berry Borer in sight, though there were a few spots of coffee leaf rust.

Kartika is the most common variety in Flores, but there are also other varieties such as Lini S, Red Columbian, Yellow Colombian and Juria. Here in the farm, the arabica flowers fall really easily due to the high density of rain. As a result, coffee trees here produce less coffee cherries than it usually would. We couldn’t stay for long at the farm however, due to the heavy haze that started to come down the hill.

Colol, Manggarai, Nusa Tenggara Timur 

On the 3rd day, we started off with the usual, brewed some coffee and ate breakfast. The plan for the day was to visit another farm at Biting and Colol Village, known to be the highest coffee farm in West Manggarai, located at 1.600 - 1.800 MASL, 3 hours away from Ruteng.

Along the way, going through heavy roads and terrain, I realize how hard it actually is. All this time when we would crave for a cup of coffee, we would just visit our regular café, sit down and order whatever it is that we desire. When all along, for that cup of coffee to be served, from picking the cherries, to the processing methods, transporting the beans to the city, then roasted, and then brewed- it is not exactly a breeze.

When we arrived, the coffee plant varieties are pretty much like the ones at Mbohang, Gulang and Pering Villages. The most interesting part, is that we saw an old Juria Coffee tree, up on a hill which has been planted since the colonial age.

Sorting the Green Beans 

I have learned a lot from this trip, I learned how complicated it is to process coffee. We’re really lucky that we have farmers and processors who take good care of the coffee plants, processing it meticulously from cherries to green beans. They are all very dedicated with their tasks and duties, and because of that, we are able to enjoy our cup of coffee at our regular coffee shops or the comfort of our homes.

From what I see, farmers have a difficulty in processing their coffee, to access the market, or gain knowledge- so I really do hope we could be an agent of change, and to work together to incorporate sustainable practices in the coffee industry.

editor | Lonika Tay