Trips: A Brief Report from Sumatra

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jan 1, 2008 in NEWSLETTER, Trips |

A couple of weeks before the holidays, Bill returned from what we understand was a truly extraordinary trip to Sumatra! Before zipping off to Colombia, Bill sat down with us to bring the Café Campesino crew up to date, albeit briefly, on his two week adventure on the other side of the world… and we thought we’d better share it with you in this edition of Fair Grounds, especially given how much our Sumatra Full City is loved! We’ll share more detailed information about our producer partners at ForesTrade/PPKGO and some of the new trading partner relationships we’re developing there in upcoming issues of Fair Grounds. In the meantime, here are a few nuggets of info we hope you find interesting…

Here’s what Bill learned about what it is that makes Sumatran coffee so different from the rest of the world’s coffee:

1. Most countries have distinct growing and harvesting seasons. A few – like Colombia – have microclimates that allow different parts of the country to produce crops at different times of the year so that the country as a whole is able to export year round. Since Sumatra sits right on the equator, the climate is favorable for coffee plants in all regions to produce year round.

2. Sumatran beans are cleaned differently. Traditionally, after the coffee cherries are picked, most of the fruit is removed from the beans, which are then soaked in huge tubs of water to remove the remaining bits of fruit. But some of the fruit remains on Sumatran beans, giving the roasted bean a little boost in body.

3. Sumatran beans are dried differently. Most countries leave the green coffee beans in the hull when the beans are spread on patios to dry. The beans – complete with hull- are dried to about 13% moisture content and then sent to processing to have the hull removed. In Sumatra, the beans are dried to about 35% moisture content, then are sent to processing to be de-hulled, then are spread on the patios again to finish drying. Spreading the naked beans in direct sunlight is also what gives them their pretty blue-green color!

4. Because Sumatra has beans of a different color, the machines that the rest of the world uses to sort and clean green coffee don’t work. And since the machines don’t work, the quality control team sorts through all of the coffee by hand.

And here’s what he learned about our Sumatran supply:

1. The future for our Sumatran coffee looks better than we hoped going into the meetings with the producers. Supply from Sumatra has always been slower because it is so far away. In the past, other issues have been blamed for slow supply: the first issue was the civil war, which was ended by the second issue: the 2004 tsunami.

2. Beginning this year, we will be sourcing our Sumatran coffee from two separate coops: PPKGO, with whom we have worked for many years, and a new producer cooperative called KBQB, whose coffee promises to be just as delicious as the PPKGO coffee we have been roasting.

Stay tuned for more about Sumatra in upcoming editions of Fair Grounds!

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