Marjorie Canjura | 2019-09-11
Episode 1/2 - Meeting with Klasik Beans in West Java
While walking around Klasik Beans coffee facilities, I could not help feeling like home. Thoughts like “Oh my goodness… what a beautiful place!” or “this is real paradise: nice and smiley people, good coffees, and beautiful beaches and landscapes” kept running my mind all the time; but more than, it was simply impressive to meet a complete community of people who share the same philosophy: “We all produce coffee, that makes us nature conservationists. Let’s take care of nature”. While there, I, myself, was part of all type of traditions and ceremonies to show gratitude and respect for nature, fruit and coffee produced and given by it.
Klasik Beans: “Nature produces coffee. Let’s keep nature natural”.
It has been ten years since Klasik Beans was founded in West Java (Belco has been an active part of such journey for the past four years, you can read some about it here 😊) and besides unforeseen, ups and downs and financial hardships, nowadays this cooperative is one of the strongest coffee businesses that supports over 2,000 small producers in Indonesia. The narrow gap that exists among farmers and clients makes them unique and what they offer is a differentiated product with a great added value: high quality and responsibly produced coffee.
Last July was the perfect time to take a one-month trip in Asia and we could not miss to visit our coffee friends in Indonesia. Definitely, the expectations were high –and eventually met-. This time, Belco went deep inside the production and processing operations carried out by this well-known cooperative to later make a full evaluation and training in line with our Active Sourcing Program. We visited and invested enough time in five locations referred to as “shelters” across different producing coffee regions: Ciwidey, Puntang, Garut, Flores and Bali. So, the journey begins here in West Java.
I started and ended up very impressed by Klasik Beans’ performance, especially because under their philosphy, farmers can produce high quality coffees by respecting human-human, human-environment and human-ancestors’ relationships. Along with this, a high organization level, the technological knowledge, farming and processing skills are evident among this coffee community.
In some regions like Guntur in Garut , Klasik Beans has invested plenty of time in renewing deforested lands with native shade-trees such as Puspa, Rasamalah, Kibeureum, Tisuk, Huru, Nangka, Peté, Mindi, Suria (all N-fixers) among others; fruit trees such as Nangka (Jacktree), Avocado, Papaya and Banana are also considered as native ones. Coffee is also promoted as an alternative to pine plantations and other monocultures that do not contribute to biodiversity. The reforested areas where soil has been recovered and where coffee can grow are watch out by the Klasik Beans forest rangers.
Coffee varieties such as Typica, Catimor, Ateng Super and Gayo are easily found on the fields; the shade-trees and coffee seedlings and nurseries are located at the different shelters and the little plants are given to the farmers, so they can plant them in the fields when it is the correct time.
Eko Purnomowidi, one of the main Klasik Beans’ founders, started developing the specialty coffee niche in West Java by researching and evaluating the high potential of the lands and small farmers, who by the time felt unmotivated by the lack of knowledge on coffee and the low prices. For him, finding the rights partners was crucial. Now, the cooperative is a family of loyal farmers, a very skilled staff and an almost standard operation in all the locations where they have a strong presence.
To be open-minded and creative to adopt an environmentally friendly attitude is a requirement to become a member of the cooperative. Klasik Beans encourages their farmers to switch from very conventional/aggressive to organic/natural coffee production; “While it is true volumes will not be high, quality and prices will be”, Eko says. On this, I could not help to say that I wish consumers shared the same mentality when purchasing coffees and that is one of the challenges Klasik Beans faces: to educate not only its farmers, but its clients and to keep on bridging the gap between these two coffee sides still very far apart.
In two weeks we were driving to different places; my first destination was Ciwidey, the largest shelter in capacity. On the other hand, Puntang works as the main shelter because all the coffees are gathered there to be sent overseas or to the local market, which in Indonesia is very demanding. In general, the shelters work as centralized purchasing points where most farmers bring their cherries by themselves. As some growing regions are found away from the main shelters, some other farmers are divided by groups and leaded by a coop member, who is the responsible person of spreading technical assistance, collecting everyone’s coffees and the communication. All the processing chain takes place here and the quality control evaluation of all the coffees is carried out by Imas and Uden, two certified Q-graders and amazing human beings.
Imas & Uden
All types of coffees are produced at Klasik Beans and quality and traceability parameters are normally respected. Thanks to this dedication a wide range of coffees “lines” has been developed – whose names might sound familiar to you now– such as Java Sunda FW radhiophare, Sulawesi Latimojong, Java Sunda Wet Hulled, Java Long Berry, Java Srigaluh FW and many honeys and naturals, among others. Klasik Beans also runs a very nice roastery to supply the local demand.
Finally, I had the great experience of cupping and sharing some of our Active Sourcing Program with some teenagers (most of them farmers’ sons) interested in learning about the production in other countries and who are constantly encouraged by Klasik Beans to stay involved in the industry to help their parents not to give up on coffee and become more aware of the current markets.
Being formed as baristas or roasters and work at Klasik Beans coffee shop are only some of the several opportunities youth have at the cooperative; by the time, I was surrounded by a lot of emotion, as everyone was getting ready for the Jakarta Coffee Week.
We had a very profitable schedule drinking and cupping good coffees and food, discussing all type of expertise, technical opinions and sharing many new ideas for the future, while we enjoyed the beautiful landscapes, rice plantations and beaches on our way to the mountains 😊. An agroforestry project would not be bad! This is it for Belco and Klasik Beans in West Java for now. Do not miss the second part of our blog, where I will be sharing our visit in Flores and Bali islands, whose coffee production and logistics are quite different and where I happily culminated this trip.
Marjorie for the Belco team