Jim just got back from a producer visit to Sumatra. The trip was part of the Farmer-to-Farmer program with USAID, and we met with the 3 producer groups we buy coffee from. We were able to have cupping sessions with each group, farmer visits, and tours of the processing and export facilities. We discussed some of the challenges that each group was facing, and planned for the upcoming year’s export season. We worked with the cuppers from each cooperative and showed them the cup profile that works best for us and how other profiles might fit into the specialty coffee market. One goal of the project is to help the cooperatives to better market their coffee, find appropriate buyers and avoid quality control issues.
It has been a difficult year for most cooperatives in Sumatra. The huge jump in coffee prices, combined with fixed price contracts (that some big buyers made them sign) caused many co-ops to lose money. When a fixed contract is made months in advance, and then the coffee NY “C” market goes up drastically, the cooperative must buy cherries from the farmers at a higher price. In some cases, this price is more than they will be able to sell the coffee for. We were happy to find that the cooperatives did not lose money on the contracts they made with us.
We left Medan at 6:30am for Takengon. After 10 hours on the road, and nearly getting washed off the side of the mountain in a construction zone, we arrived at the Hotel Renggali on Lake Tawar.
Our first meeting in Aceh was with APKO (Asociasi Petani Kopi Organik). After a cupping session at the main office, we got the opportunity to sit in on the election of their new chairman. This was a great chance for us to see, first-hand, how our producer partners’ cooperative functions. When the nominations, stump speeches and voting were finished, Darul Aman emerged as the new chairman.
We visited member farms and several collectors. The collectors process the coffee from cherries (golondong) to gabah (pergamino dried to 40%). The coffee is then sent to the export facility in Medan where it is hulled, dried, sorted, and bagged for export. Below is a picture of our coffee chain. The three people on the left are producers and members of APKO cooperative, the three people next to them are Cooperative Coffees members, and the person on the right is a cafe owner/barista from Madeleine’s in Spokane.
APKO plans to add a huller at their pulping facility so that they can process coffee all the way to asalan (green coffee, unsorted, 20% moisture). The asalan will be delivered to the export facility in Medan where it will be sorted and packed for export.
The next day, we met with ASKOGO (Asosiasi Kopi Gayo Organik) for producer visits, cupping and general meetings.
At Permata Gayo, they are beginning a program to process coffee all the way to “ready export”. This would allow the cooperative to export directly from Aceh instead of shipping the partially processed coffee to Medan to be processed for export.