Buckle up for an overview of our recent adventure to the breathtaking province of Aceh in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Last month, we embarked on a journey to the renowned Ketiara cooperative nestled in the picturesque Gayo Highlands.
During this journey we immersed ourselves in the vibrant culture and met the incredible farmers that make our Indonesia Mandheling so remarkable. We also explored and celebrated the hard work and dedication of the Ketiara cooperative. Our colleague, Johan, kept a journal of his adventure and we are thrilled to share his story with you…
After a long day of intense travel, we have arrived safely in the charming town of Takengon, nestled in the serene Gayo Highlands of central Aceh. The journey was well worth it as we were greeted with open arms and experienced the renowned warm hospitality that Indonesia is famous for. The main purpose of our trip is to visit the remarkable Ketiara cooperative, where we have the privilege to meet the dedicated farmers and witness their exceptional operations. Led by inspiring women, Ketiara cooperative produces some of the finest organic coffee in Sumatra, and we are beyond excited to explore their world.
To kick off our adventure, we enjoyed a delightful dinner and planned the days ahead. Tomorrow, we will delve into operations of processing and sorting, and also cup the current harvest. We brought along our own roasted beans as a point of reference! In the afternoon, we'll sit down to talk to some of the dedicated farmers to hear how we can continue supporting and helping them through our Impact Trade initiative.
A group dinner to plan the coming days
Amokka® Assistant Roaster, Johan
Another eventful day in Aceh! Our time was filled with farm visits and exploring the breathtaking countryside. The natural beauty of this region surpassed even our wildest expectations. The day started with a comprehensive tour of the facilities and processing operations. When we first tasted coffee from Ketiara, we were impressed by how clean it tasted as well as the processing of the beans. Witnessing the operations first-hand, it comes as no surprise. Quality reigns supreme here. Every step, from drying to sorting, destoning, hand sorting, and blending, is executed with skill and unwavering dedication. Ketiara truly knows how to bring out the best of their members coffee.
Next, we embarked on an hour-long drive to the village of Panangan Mata, where some of the coffee beans that go into our Mandheling originates. The farmer members welcomed us with overwhelming warmth, hospitality, and curiosity. Their farming practices, combined with Ketiara's guidance, have enabled them to command higher prices for their coffee compared to neighbouring farms.
We discovered that the farmers of Ketiara work in teams, collectively harvesting each other’s farms—a true embodiment of the Indonesian spirit of extending a helping hand whenever needed. The belief that ‘many are superior to one’ holds true here. On the day a particular farm is harvested, the farm owner provides food, snacks, and drinks, and they all gather for a relaxed lunch. As the day drew to a close, we had the opportunity to learn how they use organic fertiliser and engage in discussions about the challenges (which are remarkably few) and the numerous advantages of organic agriculture. While walking through the fields, we marvelled at the shade plants that not only benefit the coffee trees but also enhance biodiversity and generate additional income. Avocado, bitter beans, tree tomatoes, orange trees, and bananas are just a few examples. The abundance of wildlife and insects on the farms was a remarkable sight to behold.
Tomorrow we'll have a cupping as we simply ran out of time today! Can't wait to see what else the day brings.
Check out some snaps of our time exploring Indonesian coffee farms
As we conclude our time in Aceh, we can't help but reflect on the magical experiences we've had that will stay with us for a long time after we get home. Instead of sleeping in, we headed out early to stroll through the coffee farms, basking in the mesmerising sunrise. The tranquillity of the early morning allowed us to truly appreciate the vibrant life that thrives here. From luwaks and curious lizards to an array of butterflies and insects, the farm was teeming with life. We even caught faint echoes of monkeys in the distant woods. During our wanderings, we crossed paths with Majusra, the owner of the farm we were exploring. Instead of considering our presence an intrusion, she graciously guided us around, proudly pointing out the different varieties she cultivates. Majusra has a mix of Tim Tim, an iconic Indonesian variety, and recently added bourbon to her farm. She demonstrated her seed-saving techniques and even showed us her own nursery nestled amidst the farm.
Upon returning to Ketiara, we realised we were running late for the day's activities. The cooperative was abuzz with energy as an inspector from Jakarta had arrived to evaluate their Fairtrade operations. These inspections occur several times a year to maintain their organic and Fairtrade certifications, crucial to their mission. Needless to say, they effortlessly passed the inspection! To give them space, we decided to visit some higher altitude coffee plantations around Takengon, treating ourselves to breathtaking views of the town. Our driver for the day, Agus, insisted on sharing some of the local food scene with us. We descended from the mountains to a charming fishing hamlet, indulging in grilled fish and what they call "lake lobsters" (giant crayfish).
Before heading back for our afternoon cupping session, we couldn't resist exploring the vibrant Pasar (market). The bustling stalls showcased an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and spices, many of which were completely new to us.
Upon our return to Ketiara, we were greeted by Banbang, the son of Ms. Rahmah, the chairwoman. Banbang oversees quality control, blending, and manages the cupping lab. Before delving into the cupping session, we had a conversation about his philosophy when it comes to blending and working with many different farmers. Ketiara offers four distinct profiles, each made up from coffee sourced from different farms. The blend we work with at Amokka is their Sumatra Mandheling—a true testament to what makes Indonesian coffee so unique, showcasing boldness, spice notes and balanced acidity. Our Mandheling blend encompasses coffee from 11 villages in Gayo. Tasting the fresh harvest proved a delightful experience, as the flavours aligned beautifully with the samples we received a year ago at our roastery. The coffee tasted incredibly fresh, sweet, and balanced. We also had the pleasure of sharing the coffee we roasted in Denmark, and we were thrilled that they were impressed by both the roast and the flavours we achieved. Before bidding farewell, we managed to convince Banbang to share some single-farm samples from his two favourite farms, both located in the remote high-altitude village of Panangan Mata, which we visited yesterday. We look forward to bringing these treasures back home and roasting them.
Each coffee is tasted to ensure the blend has the perfect taste profile.
Coffee cherries before being picked
Amokka® roaster, Johan, tasting the Indonesian blends.
The end result - expertly-roasted organic Amokka® Indonesia Mandheling
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