Farm: Various smallholder farms
Varietal: Catimor (Ateng)
Processing: Wine' Processing & dried on African beds
Altitude: 1,500 metres above sea level
Owner: 10 small farmers
Town / City: Bandar, Bener Meriah
Region: Aceh Province, Sumatra
Gayo Senja Wine Process - Indonesia
This Gayo Wine lot is a very special lot that has been produced by 10 coffee farmers who come from the small town of Batin Baru in Sumatra’s Aceh Province. These exceptional farmers 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!).
Arabica coffee was first planted in the Aceh region of Indonesia in 1924. Today in the Gayo Highlands, coffee is grown by approximately 72,900 farming families, most of whom farm on less than 1 hectare. For the Gayo people, coffee is a way of life and a distinct and essential part of local culture. 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 Tenga, and there is a saying that wherever you look in Bener Meriah Regency, you see coffee trees.
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 (or very special ‘wine’ processed lots, such as this one), 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 is meaningful. ‘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 ethnic group indigenous to the area. In the Indonesian language, "Senja" means dusk. It suggests that Gayo Senja is best to be enjoyed after office hours – the perfect coffee for kicking back and relaxing.
Most of the coffee farmers at Gayo highland (Aceh) plant various local varieties (namely Timtim Aceh, Bourbon, P88, BP 542A and Ateng Super). Ateng is a local term for the Catimor variety. 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. Catimor/Ateng is one of the most ubiquitous.
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.
When Indo CafCo began experimenting with natural processing, they originally purchased from a single farmer. 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, constructed specifically for this purpose. Wine processing is a variation on the natural method that Indo CafCo has perfected. Cherries are delivered directly to Grain Pro bags, where they are left to ferment for one week. Then, they are delivered to raised beds where they will be sorted as they dry, removing underripe and damaged cherries until only the best are left. They will be regularly turned until the humidity reaches 12%.