As well as growing coffee the farmers also grow vegetables & fruits to eat or sell at local markets. Usually there are two harvests a year with coffee being picked in the main harvest from October - December, & then again from March - May as part of the fly crop.
Unusually for Sumatra, this coffee is not processed by lots of small producers & then collected. It is collected first & then processed as one, which is probably why this coffee has such good uniformity & clarity compared to other coffees from this region.
After this the coffee is laid out on patios in the sun for a day, until it reaches about 40% moisture content (known locally as gabah). From here it undergoes the wet hulling process & removal of the parchment.
The coffee is dried again until 13% moisture for a further 4-5 days.
The coffees are then rested before being put through gravity tables & hand picked twice. They are then packed ready for export from the town of Takengon in Aceh.
With Europe’s ever increasing thirst for coffee at that time, this commodity played an important role in Indonesias' trade, as indeed it does today.
Following early success in Java, coffee was then introduced to Sumatra, initially to the northern region of Aceh around Lake Tawar.
Aceh has seen much civil unrest throughout its history, but most recently due to guerrilla activity organised under the Free Aceh Movement.
As a result many farms were abandoned, as farmers migrated to escape the unrest.
Incredibly, the devastation of the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake & tsunami did provide a silver lining, as it focused international attention on Banda Aceh. Subsequent aid spotlighted the region& served to bring relative peace to Aceh.
Now farms are being revitalized via new planting & pruning & hope is returning.
Sumatran coffees are mainly produced by a unique semi-washed process which is sometimes described as “wet-hulled” (known locally as Giling Basah).
In this process the coffee is picked, machine pulped (usually on the individual small holding), then partly sun dried. The parchment is removed revealing a whitish coloured, swollen green bean.
The drying is then completed on the patio where the seed quickly turns to a dark green colour unique to Sumatra.
This method brings about more body & often more of the character that makes Indonesians coffees so unique & recognisable, with flavours ranging from earthy herbs & deep chocolate to citrus & spice.