A couple months ago, a representative from the Indonesian Consulate General in San Francisco contacted us asking if we would like to take part in their new “Familiarization of East Java coffee program.” The goal of which is to promote East Java Culture and Coffee – in particular “specialty coffee” – what the Indonesian coffee industry designates as small farm, single origin coffee that exports with the intention of providing quality beans to high end coffee roasters like Kopi.
Java has historically been associated with mass produced utilitarian coffees like Folgers and Starbucks. Look a little closer and you'll find great potential for high end specialty coffee. Many of the coffee farms in Java have been in use for centuries and are historically biodynamic, making for a natural adaptation to the changing coffee markets in the west. During a trip to Bandung in February, I tasted some of the most interesting, flavor forward coffee I’ve ever had in my life and it was very exciting to have the opportunity to meet some of the farmers who grow that same coffee. At Kopi, we’ve been able to roast several great coffees from Java but we’ve seen many more imports come from Sumatra, Flores and Bali. Java being the most populous island in the archipelago of Indonesia, big business usually comes first. SCAI (Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia) has been working hard to help small farms grow great coffee and get the word out about Java's developing specialty coffee culture.
Indokom Citra Persada Facility, Surabaya
Fast Forward to the last day of our trip. We are saying goodbye to most of our group as their flight to Jakarta leaves soon. The whole group is smiling through the day in a dreamy haze, having rose at 3am to experience sunrise over Bromo then driving back to Surabaya through monsoon rains. Amongst them, our SCAI representative and charming host, Daroe. He is gracious, intelligent and warm in a way unique to Indonesia. His limitless energy kept us smiling this week. Daroe is a gem. I mean, look at this face:
We’ve roasted coffee from Indokom since the beginning, our most popular bean, a natural processed coffee from the Kintamani highlands on the island of Bali, comes through Indokom.
Upon entrance to the facility- we are greeted with a procession of women workers down a long green carpet that vanishes into a table of candy, tempe, shrimp and rice. Beyond that is the cupping room which is set up with two dozen or so coffees that are shipping out later this month.
Angklung music plays over the PA as Mr. Hangirro, our government attaché gifts a plaque from the Indonesian Genereal Consualte in San Francisco. Then its our turn to gift a map of Oregon to Mr. Ibnu Ramadhan, one of the heads of the Surabaya facility of Indokom. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to photo-ops so I'm happy when all the workers in the facility line up for pictures with Nacko as we give and receive gifts. Our gifts from Portland include maps, postcards, Moonstruck Chocolate and Kopi T-shirts.
Before our facility tour, we casually cup the coffee in no strict order, a cupping where focus is on conversation and company as much as it is about the beans. There’s no coffee snobbery here, sharing thoughts and stories takes center stage as slurping echoes in the background. A taller table of Arabica from Java, Flores, Bali, Sulawesi and Sumatra over shadows a small table of Robusta. There's even coffee from as far east as Indonesian New Guinea, a place we had no idea even grew coffee. Of the world’s 800 or so languages, 300 are from the New Guinea island, the western part of which was annexed by Indonesia in 1962.
Kopi Pengolahan (coffee processing)
The processing facility at the Jawa Timur Indokom facility contains several different sorting machines. One larger sifter that works the beans through several trays, sorting on density, a beautiful Optical Color Sorter (see video below) unit that filters the beans vertically and a room for the specialty products where the beans are sorted by hand. Next to the hand sorting station is a huge temperature controlled greenhouse where several of the “blue” variety beans are drying on large beds. Immediately upon walking into the greenhouse I’m covered in a tuxedo of sweat, my glasses fog immediately, a constant issue when traveling Indonesia. I'm not sure how anybody wears spectacles on a daily basis here.
Even at Indokom, a large coffee facility, we are greeted with huge smiles from everyone we meet. Every person is gracious and full of energy. Everyone wants to share, whether that be a cup of coffee or a delicate hand shake, the warmth that emanates from Javanese people is constantly refreshing and welcoming. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Grandmother's love, tranquil and unconditional, they are happy when you are happy with them. When in Indonesia, I find that I always know happiness. -X
On the next posts, I'll go back to day one as we travel from Surabaya to Bondowoso, up to Blawan and Kawah Ijen, the greatest hike in the world.