The Pilot's Blog

The Roasterie Adventures to Indonesia Part 3: Takengon Back To Medan

After our Roasterie representatives had completely immersed themselves in Indonesian culture and the Sumatran coffee selection process, it was time to start the journey home. But the adventure wasn’t over yet for The Roasterie’s Jon Ferguson and Danny O’Neill! Combine coffee, wet-hulling and a volcanic eruption for Jon’s third installment of The Roasterie’s adventure in Indonesia:

Takengon to Medan, Dec. 4, 2013

Our plans for Wednesday were to make a few more stops around Takengon before heading to the airport for our trip back to Medan. Once in Medan we planned to visit the Yudi Putra warehouse and do a cupping.  However, we ended up with a cancelled return flight to Medan due to a volcanic eruption.  On top of this, the road from Takengon to Medan (a 12-hour drive) had a bridge washed out, so we ended up having to drive six hours north in the opposite direction to catch a flight out of Banda Aceh back to Medan.

Irham’s 2nd Warehouse in Takengon

Despite of our travel troubles, our morning plans with Irham, Ina, and Syfrudin went smoothly.  We stopped by Lake Tawar for a quick look at the lake before visiting Irham’s second warehouse location in another part of Takengon. At this location, we watched a small group of women sorting Grade 3 and Grade 4 coffees.

These grades of coffee are very inexpensive and often used for instant coffee blending or local consumption.  Although Irham doesn’t typically invest in sorting out lower graded coffees at this stage, Syfrudin explained the harvest is running late and the weather has caused lower production, making the women anxious to work and generate income.  Because the women need income to help sustain their families, he has provided them with an avenue to generate at least some money to support them. Irham will sell these grades for a minimal price difference, but retaining good spirit and talented work is well worth it.

(A short video of Syfudin discussing the sorting.)

After visiting with the women in the sorting room, Ina and Irham took us to the warehouse. In the warehouse is where wet parchment comes to be mixed with other lots for greater consistency and ample storage for drying.

These long piles of wet-hulled coffees (aka: the parchment has been removed) surround Irham’s warehouse on concrete patios. The tarp covers the coffee to keep them from getting wet.

Once the coffee has reached a moisture content of around 20%-25%, it is shipped to Medan for final export preparations.

This is where the “triple-picked” final sorting process occurs.  Triple-picked coffee refers to the amount of times the coffee is sorted before put into jute bags for export. With triple-picked coffee, it is mainly achieved when the coffee reaches a “zero defect” quality.  The grading system is also based off cupping scores rather than physical green grading. The entire traditional coffee processing in Indonesia is a unique process to observe, so keep checking back for more on this in the future!

Lokop Sabun

After visiting the warehouse, we went to Lokop Sabun, the coffee plantation where Royal Coffee Importers “retro” coffees are grown.  It also happens to be in the center of the damage from the earthquake that hit here in July 2013, which was sadly apparent.  Lokop Sabun appeared to have some of the healthiest and abundant coffee shrubs we saw during our trip.

Ina showing us a few freshly picked cherries from Lokop Sabun.

Once we realized our flight from Takengon was cancelled, we began the six-hour drive to Banda Aceh to catch the only other flight available to Medan. When we stopped in Banda Aceh, I found a bag of Kopi Luwak in the airport for $10. Although it wasn’t the real thing, the women who were selling it were very happy to demo the coffee bag for me.

If one may recall, Banda Aceh had been the epicenter of a 9.3 magnitude earthquake and hit the heaviest during the 2004 tsunami. I was glad to see people able to smile after experiencing so much suffering. What an inspiring note to end on as our journey turned toward home.

Cheers,

Jon

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