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Hallmark Vending - Growing Caffe Praego in Indonesia

"Hallmark in the Community" Coffee at its Very Best!!

 

Indonesia produces some of the world’s best quality coffees despite the fact that over the past thirty years the country has suffered greatly through civil war, tsunamis, (the worst of which happened on Boxing Day 2004), earthquakes, and active volcanoes, together with having to feed a population of over 240 million people.


Sumatra is the coffee growing area of Indonesia. Situated to the north of this extraordinary country the land is fertile and while the rains do fall periodically the heat from the sun is relentless giving ideal growing conditions.


 

Recently our coffee team visited the growing area of Tackengon in northern Sumatra to visit the farmers where our Caffe Praego Fair Trade coffee is grown. Here they found a wonderful, caring race of people with a great pride in their produce and way of life.


 

Over 60% of the coffee grown in Sumatra still comes from local independent farmers, who own small holdings with an annual coffee production of around 600 tons. There are larger community owned farms producing several thousand tons of coffee beans but all farms sell their crop to a local co-operative. The P.P.K.G.O. is one such co-operative providing the farmers with a reliable and safe route to sell their crop on the open market as well as giving training and advice on how to continually increase the quality & productivity of their harvest.

 


What is very evident is that the farmers want to have “Trade not Aid”.


It is great testament to the farming community that this is what they asked for during a meeting of a gathering of 20 local farmers when asked;

 

“How can we at Caffe Praego help to support your local community more?”


They replied: “Help us how to grow coffee more efficiently as well as improving the quality of the bean so that when we go to market we can get a better overall price”


The coffee produced by the farmers of the ASKOGO co-operative is 100% Organic as well as being “shade grown”. Natural fertiliser is used; the coffee cherries (outer husk), is left to compost before it is placed around the base of the coffee tree, returning the nutrients back into the soil as well as providing additional shade for the roots. Throughout the plantation tall trees have been planted to provide shade to the (smaller) coffee trees from the intense sunlight as well as providing habitat for the local wildlife and additional income for the farmers from the fruit that is harvested.


The growing season of the coffee bean starts in January through to May, with two harvests being possible from most of the plantations. The farmers of ASKOGO are now benefiting from the advice given to them recently and they are now growing and picking the beans twice in the season.

 

Once picked the cherries are either, bagged up and transported to the local co-operative hulling machine, or they are hulled in situ by the side of the plantation. Hulling is the process by which the outer (husk) is removed from the bean.


 

The planting of fruit trees, the use of natural compost and an abundance of wild flowers around the perimeter of the plantation, encourages wildlife to feed, and pollinate the flowers, which then become cherries.


Once ripe the cherries are hand picked. Only ripe (red) cherries are picked allowing the green cherries to continue ripening. The trees are harvested every two weeks in rotation.


The next stage in the process is washing the beans. On a small scale this is just a case of washing the beans in bowls of water, then laying them out to dry. On a slightly larger scale, all the beans from the local farmers are brought to a central location, where they are washed and put out to dry in the basin (area of flat concrete). All this work is undertaken collectively by the farmers themselves.


Due to the intense heat and sunshine the beans dry quickly. They are raked over on a regular basis to aid the drying. Plastic breathable sheeting is laid down to enable the beans to be gathered up quickly should the weather suddenly change to rain. Before the temperature starts to drop at the end of the day the beans are gathered up and stored ready to be laid out the next day. This process continues until the water content is down to 30%.


Once the water content has reduced to 30% the beans are bagged up, weighed and transported to a processing plant to remove the outer ‘silver skin’ which has now become hard. At present the farmers do not have the machinery to do this part of the process themselves and where outside help is required. A percentage of the crop is kept as payment to the processing plant, who onward sell their part of the crop.


 

Through out the entire process of producing quality coffee beans, cupping (tasting) is carried out at each and every stage by coffee experts, all of whom have had extensive training and experience. The cupping process is carried out with beans from individual co-operatives to ascertain their individual flavour characteristics.

 

Following the visit our Caffe Praego team and our roasters have agreed to provide additional funding to help the farmers and their families with equipment an

 

d to support a new building project that will improve, greatly, the process in which beans are hulled. This should result in continuous improvements to the quality and will enable the harvesting of beans to expand thus securing the long term future of the Co-operatives and their community.

 

 

 

 

 

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