Monday, May 21, 2012

Part One- Toby's Estate Coffee Origin Trip to West Java, Bandung, Indonesia.

I am excited! This was, officially, my first work trip with Head Roaster & Ops Manager, Alvaro Sanchez and there is not a better way other than trekking to the source of coffee origin.

This is definitely not the first trip to a coffee plantation for both of us(having travelled before in our previous coffee occupations) and Alvaro was fresh from a recent origin trip to Thailand and Burma, but getting ready for this trip kept us excited. It was "home" to both of us. Alvaro was working in this part of Asia for awhile before making Sri Lanka (and now Singapore) home while myself, coming from a West Javanese race and background, finally arriving to where my ancestors once set foot. Place of destination, Bandung, Indonesia.

Upon arrival and after clearing the custom, we were created by a big hand-held sign that reads, "Welcome Alvaro Sanchez & Suhaimie Sukiman" and right away, I know we are in great company! In a span of just 30 minutes, we found ourselves checking in the hotel and ushered to our host's cupping facility, with 6 amazing coffees awaiting.


A late lunch soon followed and after which, we spend sometime behind the bar, looking at the roasting facilities and traveling up town to another cafe operator to sample the Rodyk Blend and dinner. At 12 midnight, we were still at work, fine tuning a roasting machine and checking out some green samples.

The second day was designated for the farm and processing plant visit. We made our way up and early on a four wheeler drive. The ride was an experience! Bumpy, nerve wrecking and navigating our way through villages, villagers-people, horsed and later on, various plantations like strawberries, teas and rice fields. 2 hours into the journey and some 1200 metres ASL, we discovered our first Coffeea Arabica plantation. A yellow bourbon varietal.

At the elevation of between 1200-1300 meters ASL, we arrived at the intended coffee plantation in Gunung Halu. Here, the 4 wheeler is parked by the side while we continue trekking on foot to the first plantation.

The fact that amazed me here is the variety of crops that the farmers grow apart from coffee. I always knew that it is essential for farmers to practice subsistence farming as a way to maintain their livelihood but never in the way that I can ever imagine; oranges and coffee at side by side. Tamarind, pumpkins and even bananas! Now this is interesting. We know how just like cultivating grapes for wine, the condition of soil affect the taste of coffee. With all these crops surrounding coffee trees in West Java, will we have then orange citrus, the piquant acidity of banana, tamarind and pumpkin in the characteristic of coffee? It's anyone guess!

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