Farm: 9 smallholder farmers
Varietal: Bourbon & Ateng Super
Processing: Natural -Dried on Patios and Drying beds
Altitude: 1400 - 1,500 metres above sea leve
Owner: Various smallholder farmers
Town / City: Batin Baru, Bandar, Bener Meria
Region: Aceh Province, Sumatra
Gayo Natural - Indonesia
This Gayo Natural lot is a very special lot that has been produced by 9 coffee farmers who come from the small town of Batin Baru in Sumatra’s Aceh Province. Mr. Ilan, Mr. Muklis, Mr. Armansyah, Mrs. Zohariah, Mrs. Ramlah, Mr. Wardiana, Mr. M Husen, Mr. Nazir, and Mr. Fitra Ariga Gayo mind their small farms with the help of family members using traditional methods of cultivation. They then deliver their cherry to Mercanta’s exporting partner in Indonesia, Indo CafCo, who have a buying centre and dry mill in Bener Meria (among others!).
There are very few coffee estates or even co-ops in Sumatra. Instead, a huge number of tiny growers – farms rarely exceed 2 hectares – usually sell small quantities of coffee at their local village market and bargain hard for the best price for their semi-washed coffee. Indo CafCo does things slightly differently, however. They work closely with various parties along the supply chain: farmers, farmer groups and collectors. Although these parties are not ‘members’ of Indo CafCo per se, each is considered a partner in the supply chain. For certain specific processes and coffees destined for the speciality market, such as Natural, Honey and Fully-washed (such as this lot), Indo CafCo purchases cherries directly from the farmers and processes the cherries at their mill, skipping all intermediaries and working directly with the farmers themselves. Not only do they buy and process cherry using stringent methods, always aiming for quality, they also help train farmers in cultivation and harvest methods. Farmers benefit greatly and tend to work with the company year to year, every year working to submit better quality cherry.
The name of this coffee, ‘Gayo’ refers both to the region and an ethnic group. Geographically, Gayo is a region within the Aceh Province and Gayonese will be used to describe the ethic group indigenous to the area who live in predominantly three areas in Aceh Province: Bener Meriah Regency, Central Aceh (or locally Aceh Tengah) Regency and Gayo Lues Regency. Most Gayonese are involved in coffee farming and farms are passed down from generation to generation. The main coffee areas are Bener Meriah and Aceh Tengah. There is a saying that where-ever you look in Bener Meriah Regency, you see coffee trees.
Most of coffee farmers at Gayo highland (Aceh) plant various local varieties (namely Timtim Aceh, Bourbon, P88, BP 542A and Ateng Super). These varieties have been planted in more recent times to replace S line and Catimor Jaluk varieties which were damaged by leaf rust and root disease. There are now more than 20 Arabica coffee varieties in production in Aceh – which accounts for the varied and often confusing proliferation of names/varieties.
Ateng is a local term for the Catimor variety and Ateng Super is an "extension" of it, which has been developed locally in Aceh. The seed was the result of a long research trial by the Indonesia Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute (ICCRI). Based on their research, the highest yield was obtained by the Ateng Super variety (1.5 Mt/Ha green). The tree branch is shorter than Ateng, and as its name suggests, the screen size is bigger than the original Ateng.
All lots destined for speciality processing at Indo CafCo are selectively handpicked. In general, the harvesting practice in Indonesia is that farmers pick not only red cherries but also green and yellow (unripe fruits) and deep red cherries (overripe fruits) in various proportions. This mode of picking is often seen as necessary due to distance to and from villages and farms, the risk of cherry loss due to theft and the time and energy required to selectively harvest. Indo CafCo works hard to change this practice through buying directly from the farmers, providing feedback and incentivising through services and premiums.
Typical to the region, coffee flowering will start around 9 months before the harvest begins; with the first picking carried out between October and December and the second from March to May. When Indo CafCo began experimenting with natural processing, they originally purchased from a single farmer – Mr. Lekman was his name. They now rely on 9 farmers, all of whom have shown commitment to further investing in quality on their farms. These farmers contribute to both honey and natural lots, which are dried on Indo CafCo’s raised beds for up to 5-6 weeks, constructed specifically for this purpose. Natural lots, such as this one, will be sorted as they dry, removing underripe and damaged cherries until only the best are left. They will be regularly turned until humidity reaches 12%.