TALKS | TUANG Indonesian coffee farmers & entrepreneurs
Welcome back to our talks with Indonesian coffee farmers and Entrepreneurs. Having already introduced you to coffees from our own imports a while back, we’re kicking off our COFFEE TALKS series where we get into conversations with our Indonesian coffee farmers and processors – asking questions about coffee topics, love for the beans and even more.
From our conversations, you’ll learn more about the coffee business – in short,
information from the inside out – as we’re getting into the details and nuances.
We’ve had superb conversations with each of our farmers, and now, compiling these interviews for you – we hope they give you a glimpse into working in the coffee business from the farmer’s side and also give you a glimpse into how many hours of work it takes to produce beans to make your morning drip/aeropress or espresso.
Enjoy the read, delve into our conversations and into the origins and stories of Indonesian coffee farmers and entrepreneurs in Flores.
To create the second story, we spoke with Pak Lupus, brand development at Tuang to learn more about what makes the coffee from Tuang so unique.
OUR SECOND STORY IS ABOUT PAK LUPUS
It was a humble beginning in 2014 when people at Tuang started with less than 5 farmers joining their collective. Inviting the producers to join their group was not an easy job – their mindset had to be changed, because they were used to focusing only on the quantity of coffee beans, and never thinking about how quality could impact their income. “It was simply because they did not want to put too much effort into it” – the coffee they produced had never been valued highly by the local buyers.
Afterwards, Tuang started to build proper processing infrastructure to make sure every coffee that they produce was consistently processed, while the farmers have to be committed to give them only the ripe coffee cherry. In return – Tuang was paying a higher price to the indonesian coffee farmers for their coffee cherries.
It has been really challenging in the beginning to work with farmers in Manggarai Flores, since the crop conditions were inconsistent, and they were both growing arabica and robusta in the same area.
At Tuang, they knew that the quality of arabica trees will not be best if grown side by side with robusta. This led them into investing into the farmers to cut the Robusta trees and grow a consistent crop of Arabica. In addition, every aspect before the coffee is roasted is of great importance. They elevated the post-harvest processing as best as they could. Every coffee cherry has to be sorted by color, type and density, this helped them to start producing high quality beans in the beginning while improving the rest of the crop. Next to that they noticed that the water supply was inconsistent in its cleanliness, leading to an investment in filtration and water irrigation systems.
Around August 2018 Tuang decided to open a coffee shop in Jakarta. This exposed them to a consistent line of feedback which started an endless cycle of trying out new process improvement and adjustments in their roast in order to create the perfect cup for their customers. In 2020 Tuang made big changes, and started to keep track of all relevant data from farm to cup, to assure that every harvest, process and roast is consistent with the quality they worked so hard towards.
THEIR STORY AND KNOWLEDGE
The team at Tuang is continuously learning about the coffee trees, soil, varieties, and fermentation process. Always wanting to improve, because the team believes that coffee can be much more than only a form of bitter and black brew, it should be an explosion of tastes that is unique to the seed and process it stems from. “To implement this idea, one must keep exploring beyond the existing paradigms of coffee and keep on experimenting without prejudice”.
Next to that, sustainability plays a large role for Tuang. They partner with local farmers in Flores, Indonesia, putting coffee sustainability as the priority by maintaining supply, strengthening market demand, and improving livelihood of the farmers while preserving nature through the entire process.
About being in the coffee processing business, in Tuang’s staff’s own words: “We somehow still do not really understand what coffee is in the right form, because it keeps changing. So, we just want to enjoy the adding-value process for everyone involved and also experience every form of change, by being part of it”.
Tuang’s staff are partnering with local Indonesian coffee farmers in Manggarai Region, Flores Island, Indonesia, providing processing infrastructure for the farmers so they do not have to worry about the costs of processing their beans. The farmers had a mindset that coffee is a simple commodity product that tastes bitter, but people at Tuang has changed that into a better understanding of the deeper qualities that are available in good coffee.
They foster collaboration that helps the farmers to share experiences and support one other and together develop a better understanding of what beautiful coffees can grow on their land. By partnering with Tuang, the farmers get fair prices for every coffee that they pick, as long as they give them time to fully develop into red cherries, and with that support them even through tougher times.
The coffee trees are grown organic in 1400-1700 masl on the east side of Manggarai Region. Manggarai is considered as the most fertile area on the island of Flores which is located in East Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia, east of Bali. The coffee trees are mostly surrounded by taro, yum and banana trees that provide shading as well as natural pesticide.
Tuang presents only the best Flores Manggarai beans. They control, process and do all the quality checks by hand to make sure only the best coffee makes it to the final product, while finding alternative markets for the beans that do not meet the demand. In Flores-Manggarai, they separate the coffee from its varietal, processing method, even from specific villages and farmers, hence every bag a client receives has its narrowest origin for specific roasting and cupping experience. They also keep improving the flavor of the beans by experimenting with the fermentation variables.
Time for an interview with Mr. Pak Lupus, who’s responsible for Brand Development for Tuang Coffee.
WHEN WAS THE FARM ESTABLISHED?
“The farm had already been there since the 1920s” he says, “but the production area/mill was established in 2014. We work directly with Indonesian coffee farmers on Flores who actually own the farms since forever.”
HOW MANY FARMERS ARE WORKING AT UWU? IS IT TRUE THAT THERE ARE MOSTLY WOMEN? IF SO, WHY?
Uwu is one of our farm areas that we’ve been partnering since 2017, and by data that we collected, there are around 200 Indonesian coffee farmers in Uwu Village. In terms of population by gender- we honestly don’t know.
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE FOUNDERS OF TUANG – WHAT IS THEIR STORY, HOW DID THEY GET INTO COFFEE AND WHAT MADE THEM DECIDE TO HAVE A DEDICATED FARM?
“Tuang Coffee is a coffee company that is focused more on the upstream part. At first, our founder went back to his family hometown in Flores, and realized that there is one condition in Manggarai Region. Most of the coffee middlemen were pressing prices of coffee cherry so low to the farmers, because they did not really have access to other buyers back then. The coffee was mostly bought only for commercial markets.
Tuang Coffee has a mission to be an agent of change, so that we can give back to our society, particularly to farmers’s economical and social life by simply doing ethical sourcing.
Tuang Coffee decided to have its own processing area that could produce high quality coffee by also guiding farmers on how to maintain their coffee tree’s quality and productivity by not using any chemical herbicide.”
KARTIKA II – CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT MORE ABOUT THIS VARIETAL?
“Kartika is the mix of Hybrid-de-Timor and Caturra. Hybrid-de-timore was made to create more productive and stronger coffee trees, so it was mixed between arabica and robusta. It creates bigger and longer beans and lush leaves.
On the other hand, the Caturra itself was a mutation of the bourbon variety which has more bright acidity and round texture profile.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST IN THE COFFEE CARING PROCESS?
“We love the times when farmers all together clean up their farms and cut wild grass.
This is a good time for us to have more time with them talking about our plans together and how to aim for better coffee harvest results for the next coming picking season.
We understand that our relationship with the farmers is not just as buyer and sellers, but we together want to keep improving our coffee quality and to introduce to all the coffee folks that coffee from Flores is actually really tasty”
WHAT KIND OF IMPROVEMENTS DO YOU SEEK IN YOUR FARM AND PROCESS?
“At this point, our focus is to maintain the quality and keep improving our operational flow, because we actually still do everything manually (picking, drying, winnowing, sorting) (winnowing is a process by which chaff is separated from grain/beans. – Ed.)
On one hand it is nice because we can empower more local people, but in terms of time efficiency and capacity we definitely need to be better.
On the farm – we need to work more on tree regeneration, because it’s true that older/mature coffee trees create sweeter coffee flavors, but they do not have a good yield at harvest time.”
Thank you very much for your time, Lupus! It was great talking to you.
CHECK OUT MORE PICTURES FROM THE FARM:
TRY OUR TUANG BLACK HONEY AND OUR OTHER COFFEES:
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