Do you know that your choice of coffee can make a difference to the wildlife and community from where it originates?
Owa Coffee, which made its debut at the recent Singapore Coffee Festival, is as devoted to enhancing your coffee experience as supporting wildlife conservation efforts in Indonesia.
“It is coffee you can drink with your conscience intact,” said Ms Vinita Ramani, assistant manager, Conservation and Research, Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) during a talk about coffee and sustainability at the festival.
WRS, a subsidiary of Mandai Park Holdings, has been collaborating with Indonesian gibbon conservation initiative, Coffee and Primate Conservation Project, since 2012 on conservation efforts for the species.
Grown under the shade of the rainforest, Owa Coffee preserves the natural habitat of the silvery gibbon, an endangered species native to the rainforests of West and Central Java, with only an estimated number of up to 4,500 left in the wild.
Locals affectionately call the silvery gibbon Owa after its haunting hooting call.
The region is also home to other primate species that are deemed endangered or vulnerable, such as the Javan leaf monkey and Javan langur.
The coffee is produced by local farmers in the Dieng region of Central Java, which is made up of lowland and hilly rainforests that rise up to 1,500m.
Villagers who live in the area traditionally grow a variety of crops, such as vegetables, palm sugar, spices and coffee.
Owa Coffee is a blend of two types of beans — Robusta (20 per cent) and Arabica (80 per cent). The former is grown under canopies of the natural rainforest, while the latter is cultivated at monoculture (single crop) pine plantations.
This ensures the natural rainforest of around 3,000ha is not cleared to create plantations for coffee, thus preserving the natural habitat of the wildlife in the region.
It also creates a wildlife corridor for animals to travel across the coffee-growing areas freely and eventually encourages more animals to return to the area and repopulate.
Empowering the community
A two-man team helms the Coffee and Primate Conservation Project. Ms Ramani said the duo started by approaching village chiefs to share their vision for the forest and its inhabitants.
From working with just two villages, Sokokembang and Gondang, the team has since established relationships with four more, assisting them on how to grow “shade” coffee and selling it at higher prices.
The farmers have now become stewards of the forests, running street-side stalls serving the coffee, or taking visitors on guided forest walks.
Proceeds from the sales have not only translated into higher income for the farmers but have also gone into buying new equipment, such as a hulling and pulping machine, and funding Javanese students on visits to study the gibbons.
Their efforts have paid off, but it is only after five years that the conservation team feels that it is ready to sell the coffee beyond Indonesia.
“It has to taste good and do good,” explained Ms Ramani.
In fact, a taste test done by industry specialists and roasters has even earned Owa Coffee a score of 80 to 84, out of 100.
How’s that for coffee with a conscience? Add The Wild Deli café at the Singapore Zoo to your café-hopping trail to enjoy Owa Coffee or purchase coffee beans.
While there, you can also pick up a copy of the book Wild We Can and learn more about wildlife conservation efforts in the region such as the Coffee and Primate Conservation Project.
Visit Mandai Park Holdings for more information.