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Spotlight on...Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu

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Spotlight on...Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu

Carrie Masek

This week, we're shining the spotlight on Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu.

Organic Ipak Bensu is 100% shade-grown on 970 small farms (approximately 3 acres each) in the Gayo Highlands. The farms are between 4000 and 5500 feet above sea level and all of the farmers are women.

In Indonesia, most farms are owned and run by men. Sumatra is different. In Western Sumatra, for instance, property is owned and passed on by the female members of the Minangkabau ethnic group. Though the Gayo Highlands are north and east of the Minangkabau Highlands, women are still very active in coffee production and many own their own farms.

In 2008, a farmer and former coffee broker named Ibu Ramhah started the Kopepi Ketiara Cooperative to help farmers process and market their coffee. Small farmers in Sumatra need help processing their coffee beans. Unlike many other coffee growing regions, Sumatra is too humid to just leave coffee cherries out to dry. Soaking the fruit off first doesn't help much, because to get the coffee beans to dry properly, the parchment (a thin shell surrounding the beans) also has to be removed. If the parchment is left on, the beans are apt to mold in the very humid air. Most coffee beans from Sumatra are processed using a wet-hulled Mandheling (Giling Basah) process. The coffee cherries are dried for a day, then the fruit is partially washed off. The beans dry for another couple of days before being sent through an expensive machine that removes the last of the fruit and the parchment from the partially dried coffee beans. The farmers who grow Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu are members of the Kopepi Ketiara Cooperative, and the cooperative processes all their coffee.

The cooperative also helps the women market their coffee. Marketing Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu separately from coffee grown by other co-op members allows the women to earn a premium on their coffee. This increases their families' access to education and health care and also allows them to invest money back into their farms to improve future crops.

We love buying co-op coffee, especially when the co-op helps farmers create a better life for themselves and their families. Kopepi Ketiara does this for the women who grow Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu, but we still wouldn’t buy it if the coffee wasn’t also really good.

Sumatran coffee is known for its very heavy, almost syrupy body, one of the consequences of the Mandheling process. Unfortunately, if not done right, the wet-hull processing also leaves the coffee with an earthy or “funky” flavor. When we cup a coffee from Sumatra, we want the body but not the funk. That’s why we’re so happy with Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu. At a medium, Full City, roast level the coffee is smooth and silky with classic Sumatran body. The flavor is clean with cocoa richness & tangy citrus brightness made even more complex by pulpy fruit sweetness and a lingering herbal finish. Roasting the coffee darker, results in an even heavier body. The tangy notes turn sweet and the flavor has more cocoa notes and bold complexity. No matter which roast level you prefer, Organic Sumatra Ipak Bensu brews into a great cup of coffee.

Do you enjoy Sumatran coffee? If so, we'd love to hear from you. You can share your thoughts on the Facebook thread or in a comment on this blog. Or, if you'd like to share your opinion with the wider world, leave us a coffee review on Google or on your favorite review site. Not only do we value your opinions, but reviews help more people find us. Help us connect coffee lovers to fresh, quality coffee!


~ Carrie, Paul and all of us at Coffee by the Roast

To learn more about the Minangkabau people, click here.

For more information on Organic Ipak Bensu and photos of the women who grow it, click here.