Although wet-hulled is their most common process, Solok Radjo produces a variety of different products. Washing station and drying patios accomodate fully washed, honeys, naturals and wet-hulled
Solok Radjo Cooperative (500 members strong, 1-2 hectares each) is a young, energetic group engaged not only in coffee production and export, but also in roasting, visiting cafes, brewing, agronomy and more. They have 3 Q-certified cuppers/graders on staff and have cupping set ups at both the field location in Aie Dingin and the drying/mill location in Solok. They are checking moisture and roasting on site to check each lot and report back to our local staff in Medan.
For farmer support and reducing distances that farmers must travel to deliver, the coop operates 8 collection stations across the region. Coop members are paid cash upon delivery of wet parchment (thanks to pre-financing of the coop thanks to our local staff and production/export partner in Medan), which further incentivizes growing membership rolls and participation in the group.
On the ecology front, this group is serious. They have a grant from the government to re-forest 2,000 hectares of previously cleared land (by illegal loggers) at the border of the National Park. Protection of this forest, in particular, is globally critical not just for carbon capture but also for wildlife protection – almost 40% of the world’s remaining population of wild tigers resides in this Park Solok Radjo’s initial phase planted trees across 150 hectares, and they’re now expanding to additional hectares. They are growing both shade tree/forest seedlings and coffee tree seedlings at their coop nursery, and they’re re-making this cleared land into forest land with coffee trees growing under the canopy. A few thousand dollars will support a hectare, so we invite roasters to get involved and support this initiative alongside Crop to Cup.
To talk about Sumatra we need to speak of its size. It’s large. Larger than Texas and Florida combined. In the middle of the island is a caldera called Lake Toba: the largest caldera from the largest volcanic explosion this world has ever seen. In this lake there is an island bigger than the country of Singapore. It is because of this lake that Sumatra has the largest rainfall seen by any coffee exporting country – the lake feeds clouds trapped in by the island’s 1500m tall mountains.
Sumatra is old. When Marco Polo visited the island’s northern tip back in 1292, he found the local people speaking Sanskrit, one of the purest remaining forms of the ancient language. When the Dutch East Indian Trading Company came, Aceh (and later Java) became the first commercial coffee origins that the world had seen.
Sumatra is big; I know we already said that, but it is really, really big. There are over 52 languages over four major ethnic groups (Acehnese, Minangkabaunese, Batak and Mala) covering an area over 170,500 square miles around. However big the island, however, there is only one government-authorized port of export – the 15 million person city of Medan. To get here, coffee has to travel as far as 375 miles, over massive mountains and on roads that are mostly still mud.
That’s 20 hours north to the producing regions Gayo Aceh, or 24 hours to the southern most Arabica regions in Kerinci. And this is the main reason that Sumatran coffee is hulled while wet, and dried while in the green. Called Giling Basah, this process starts with coffee parchment being dried to 30-50% moisture before being milled into green beans. Higher moisture during transport from the farm to the port can lend to the classic ‘earthy, musty’ flavors that you get in some Sumatrans.
Another source of Sumatra’s unique flavors dates back to the turn of the 20th century when Indonesia’s coffee crop was wiped out by leaf rust. Much of this was replaced with HDT (Hybrid de Timor) (Bourbon x Robusta), its direct descendant Tim Tim, or the more modern Sigarar Utang (Tim Tim x Bourbon).
And these are Robusta-Arabica hybrids; over the generations these have only added more Arabica through crossing Tim-Tim and with Sigarar Utang (Ateng). But there are pure Arabica strains as well, like Jember (Bourbon x Typica), USDA (Ethiopian Arabica transplant), and Onan Ganjan (Jember x Bourbon). So the genetic stock is absolutely unique.
But what makes Sumatra truly unique are Sumatrans. As a new generation takes the reigns, they are taking the country headlong into specialty. The past years have seen an explosion of washed coffees, naturals, honeys, new varietals, new regions and new ways of thinking about Sumatra’s role in specialty coffee. Not just locally, but regionally –Indonesian coffee has so much to offer, and so much of what comes out of Bali, Flores, Timor and Sulawesi comes through Sumatra.