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Sumatra - The Story Behind Our Beans

Sumatra - The Story Behind Our Beans

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Armia Ahmad - the Chairman of the Permato Gayo Co-op in Sumatra, Indonesia. Armia has dedicated his life to coffee production in the and this was his first ever trip to roaster, explaining to us that “not very many farmers get the chance to meet with a customer like you.”

During his trip down here, he told us about the beauty of coffee production in Sumatra - describing the volcanic soils and trees that fertilise the soil naturally, allowing the coffee plants to flourish without the need for chemical fertilisers or pesticides. The 100% Organic & Fairtrade Arabica beans Armia produces are known worldwide for their quality and unique earthy taste, and are used in both our Organic Dark Roast (which just happens to be the most popular product we sell) and our Merchant’s Blend.

The ‘Giling Basah’ Method 

Armia also spoke to us about the method he uses in Indonesia is known as Giling Basah, a processing method that is unique to Indonesia, as is roughly translated to mean ‘wet grinding.’ To understand Giling Basah, the fresh coffee fruit has it’s skin removed (pulped) and is left in concrete tanks to ferment overnight. The moisture content is kept high and once hulled the coffee is then dried over a patio, which (due to the amount of sunlight the coffee receives throughout the day) takes a lot longer than is usual - giving the resulting beans a taste found nowhere else in the world.

This ‘Indonesian taste’ that Armia constantly referred to is only achieved by using this method, and is an integral part of coffee production on the island. It creates a fruity, earthy, almost ’spicy’ taste that allows us to add a completely different element to the coffees we then blend and roast.

Fairtrade - Why it’s so important
  1. Armia spoke to us about the positive impact the Fairtrade has had on their community. Influencing the youth in the area to work in coffee is hard, as it is an incredibly labour intensive industry, and a lot of hard work. The Fairtrade premium allows the co-op to invest in increasing crop yields (which makes it more attractive to young people as they can be sure of a better return on their time & investment) and engage young people in a Youth Council that aims to educate and inspire, which in turn will keep the coffee coming for future generations
  2. The island of Sumatra is the only area that produces Organic & Fair Trade Coffee in Indonesia and their minimum price per kilo is maintained in an ever changing global market. The Fairtrade premium allows Armia to invest in female-run coops. Whilst these are more costly to get off the ground, female-run co-ops are 50% more beneficial for the community when compared to the more common, male-run arrangement.

  3. As we know, climate change is causing a lot of problems when it comes to global coffee production. Higher temperatures mean that insects can survive in higher altitudes, meaning that coffee pests (flies, bugs etc) are now more common amongst coffee plantations that have historically been considered ‘safe’ from this danger. For Armia, the Fairtrade premiums he receives are a huge help, allowing him - and others like him - to work with the Indonesian government to introduce more disease and pest-resistant arabica plants strains into the farms.

Whilst it might not be as idyllic as the mountainsides of Sumatra, there was something really rewarding about showing Armia around our roaster. We want every one of our coffees tell a story, and it was special to both Armia and ourselves to see the whole journey, from bean to cup, really come to life.

So if you fancy trying the ‘Indonesian taste’ that Armia is so passionate about, why don’t you give our Dark Roast and Merchants a whirl?



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