Farm: Mt. Halu Coop
Varietal: Lini S-795 (S-line hybrid, S288+Kent), Sigarar Utang (Typica+Catimor), Typica & small percentage of Ateng (Catimor), among others
Processing: Wet-Hulled / Giling Basah
Altitude: 1,200 to 1,800 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder producers
Town / City: Mount Halu, Ciwidey
West Java Raja Sunda (Mount Halu, Ciwidey) - Indonesia
In the indigenous language of the West Java Region, ‘Raja Sunda’ means the King of Sunda, referring to the Hindu Sunda Kingdom situated in western Java from 669 until around 1579. The decedents of this ancient kingdom - including the farmers who have produced this lot of coffee - have remained upon this land for generations, humbly cultivating the same Sundanese soil. Truly, these coffee farmers are today’s Kings of Sunda.
Pak Asep, the leader of the Mt. Halu Coop that produced this lot, manages about 100 farmer-members with 1 to 2 hectares of coffee each. Pak – originally a vegetable farmer – was inspired to move into coffee when he realised the power of the specialty coffee market to transform lives. In the past, these farmers’ coffee did not achieve quality premiums. The cooperative was seen as producing a commodity item, pegged to outside, fluctuating market prices, and members were unaware of the potential of their coffee and that it could one day be exported directly from West Java carrying its own region/origin as the name of the coffee. Their coffee production was controlled by big trading companies from outside of West Java - and their incomes along with it. By giving small farmers knowledge and education, Pak and the cooperative have motivated them to become productive and profitable coffee producers, demanding higher prices and recognition on the world coffee market.
Besides being famous for its white crater (Kawah Putih), lakes and hot springs, the Ciwidey area – where this coffee has been grown – has long been known for the tea plantations that have covered the hills since the 18th century. Its rich volcanic soil is also good news for coffee producers, who are equally supported by the area’s high altitude and ideal micro climate, which is perfect for producing top-quality, specialty Arabica coffee.
In order to maximise these optimal environmental conditions, Mercanta’s exporting partners have, from the early stages of working with Pak and the producers of Mt. Halu, created and implemented a new quality improvement and control program. They have seconded a supervisor to the cooperative in order to ensure that farmers not only understood how to produce better quality coffee but also have the support necessary to do so. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is communicated clearly and is explained in such a way that farmers understand the concept and purpose behind following the SOP strictly. All farmers also receive regular feedback regarding their coffee quality, which helps motivate them to continue improving.
Improving Quality through Processing
One of the major changes instituted through this quality improvement program was teaching producers to selectively harvest. Before entering the program, many farmers in the cooperative included both overripe and underripe cherries in the coffee they delivered. Today they pick only the ripest cherries, now that they understand how important it is to quality in the cup. After being delivered, the coffee is processed using the traditional ‘Giling Basah’ (Wet-hulled) method; however, in this case unusually stringent quality controls are used.
Upon being received, coffee is sorted again to ensure only ripe cherries are pulped. The ripe cherries are then floated in a tank to separate ‘floaters’ and damaged cherries. Neither of these selection processes are commonly practised in Indonesia.
Coffee is pulped using a pulping machine, and the resulting parchment coffee is then fermented in a fermentation tank for12-14 hours, depending on the climate at the time. After fermenting, the coffee is fully washed by hand in buckets of water, and any additional floaters, if present, are removed. Again, Indonesian coffees rarely go through these stages of water separation.
After washing is completed, parchment is delivered to dry on para para – Indonesian raised beds – or, alternatively, on cement patios laid with canvas. When the parchment reaches 20-25% moisture content and is still warm from drying in the sun, it is hulled using a wet huller.
Those running the quality improvement program have noticed that many wet-hulled coffees from other Indonesian origins or mills often have the common visual characteristic of ‘splits’ at the end of the beans due to poor execution of the wet hulling process. These split beans are known as kuku kambing - directly translated as “goat’s nail”, with reference to the defect’s shape. The Mt. Halu Coop leaders realised that performing the wet hulling process with the parchment still warm results in a cleaner looking wet-hulled coffee with no split beans and less silver skin. After hulling, the green coffee will continue to the next stage of drying on para para until it reaches 12% moisture content.
Coffee is then hand selected, again, to remove any visual defects by sorters trained to SCAA Specialty grading specifications.
The cooperative’s mill and drying patios are situated at a relatively high altitude with lower temperatures and cooler winds: these elements ensure that the multiple stages of the coffee drying process from parchment to green are carried out slowly and consistently. This is in contrast to many Indonesian coffee mills, which are usually situated at lower altitudes with dryer, hotter climates.
Due to the strict procedures used, this coffee is traceable down to individual small farms/farmer families, and when farmers bring in their ripest coffee cherries every day, both the farmer’s name and weight of the cherries being accepted are recorded. Microlots are separated according to region, keeping even neighbouring areas (even in West Java) separate so that the growers and region benefits from the recognition for all their individual hard work. Furthermore, regular (random) checks are performed at the co-op to help maintain strict quality controls and all coffee is cupped by internal and external coffee professionals.
These factors all work to produce an exceptional Indonesian coffee that Mercanta is proud to offer.