Coffee- What It Takes and What It Causes - Trip to Aceh
written by Abraham Gerhard
Coffee has been traded worldwide, for hundreds of years. Yet, it has never been more accessible for anyone to be able to get a good quality coffee. We’re really blessed by all these amazing coffees that we can enjoy all year long, at our favorite specialty coffee shops or brewed by ourselves at home.
Personally, I feel that I have been ignoring the difficult part of the journey that it takes, for us to be able to enjoy a good quality cup every morning. While this may not be the case for everyone else, but I do wonder what exactly it takes.
The Gayo region has always been famous for its coffee. Although I have spent most of my childhood living in the Northern part of Sumatra, I have never gotten the chance to visit Gayo. On this trip we, Mikael Jasin and myself, teamed up with Gayo’s Best. We took a flight from Jakarta to Banda Aceh, where Jonathan Lee, waited to take us on an 8 hour road trip to the Atu Lintang region.
Atu Lintang Region
Jonathan came to Indonesia from the United States, to work for an American NGO. I asked him how he ended up in the coffee industry, to which he replied “I just followed the coffee”. And now, he works as a consultant for Gayo’s Best, a coffee trading and roasting company and K2, a moringa supplement company.
We arrived at the Atu Lintang region at midnight and spent the night at a farmer’s house, Voster, from Galla Integrated Farm. Voster has been working with Gayo’s Best for more than 5 years.
In the morning, we got the chance to visit Voster’s coffee farm. He has 3 plots of land which totaled in 5,5 hectares with the altitude of 1,600 - 1,800 MASL. 2 of those, are producing coffee and 1 is expected to produce by next year. His crop is dominated by P88 varietal and some small amount of Tim Tim (HDT/Hibrido de Timor). Other than his crops, he also received coffee from other farmers with P88, Catimor, Tim Tim and Borbor varietal.
His crops are healthy and the processing station, although small, can be a breeding ground for quality coffee. But in the near future, Voster is planning to build more drying stations to increase his production capacity.
Voster's Drying Station
One of the things that piqued my interest about Voster’s farm is that he raises animals as well, such as goats, geese and chickens. He integrates animal farming with coffee farming. Voster uses goat manure as an organic fertilizer for the coffee plants and uses the fermented coffee pulp mixed with hay, to feed the goats. On top of that, we were given the chance to drink fresh goat milk. It was the best goat milk that I have ever had, because the milk didn’t have any aftertaste (goat aroma). Voster said, the milk has a clean aftertaste because of the feed that they use.
Later that day, we went to Aru Gele to visit another farm, also one of the partners of Gayo’s Best. At Aru Gele, we met with Afri, an English literature study graduate who decided to farm coffee on his grandmother’s plot of land. Like Voster’s, his plot of farm is located around his house. Even though the farm and its processing station is very humble, I am able to witness that this does not affect his willingness to learn and quality of work. Alongside the coffee farm, Afri also owns a tobacco farm, which he manages with his family.
Afri's family showing us the tobacco seed
We had the chance to share with Afri, on how to improve the processing station, with blueprints of simple and applicable equipment. We’ll also work with him to do quality processed coffee in small batches. This is the cause that is aimed by Gayo’s Best and So So Good Coffee Company, which is to help educate the farmers further.
This was a short trip, so we had to leave early in the morning back to Banda Aceh. But before heading back, we went and visited the KamiKITA, a community center that works together with Gayo's Best. Everyone here was really excited to meet Mikael, and of course, they were all excited to enjoy a So So Good brew by the 4th World Barista Champion, including the children. I’m used to seeing Mikael brew coffee in front of professional judges, but to see him brew in front of the kids was a really interesting sight to see.
Miki brewing for the children at KamiKITA
This trip to Gayo may not be my first origin trip, but, I have come to always learn something new during each trips. More importantly, seeing Voster’s and Afri’s hardwork and dedication to their crafts directly, I learned to appreciate each effort made to get coffee to end up in my cup.
By the end of our trip to Voster’s farm, he showed us his old house just when he started farming coffee 8 years ago. It has a bare concrete floor and wooden wall. Compared to his house condition now, I realized how much the coffee business has affected a farmer’s livelihood.
That’s why we at So So Good Coffee Company, believe in empowering them to be their own agent of change to improve their farming and processing quality to get the best out of their coffee. Making coffee is not just about how to produce the best quality coffee possible, but also how to improve the life of the people involved in the supply chain.
editor | Lonika Tay