(THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A young man was busy checking the temperature of a coffee-roasting machine.
His name was Aprei Kurniawan, a coffee farmer from Jabung hamlet on the slopes of Mount Lawu, Magetan regency, East Java.
His machine was assembled locally and is able to roast up to 3kg of coffee beans. While waiting for the machine to reach the required temperature, he sorted the green beans already prepared on a bamboo tray. The bad beans must be separated from the good ones.
Coffee agribusiness is the path he chose in 2014 and, two years later, to increase the selling point of his home-grown coffee, he established a coffee-roasting house. The so-called coffee-roasting house is actually a humble room located next to his home.
“Before the beans enter the roasting machine, I make sure, again and again, that the bad or small beans are left out. That way, I can maintain the good flavour of the coffee,” he said.
He added that maintaining the consistency of the coffee's quality comprised the entire process from planting to harvesting to handling. Maintaining consistency is important, so beans can be marketed successfully in the long run. In the end, good sales will benefit his community.
“These days, coffee connoisseurs and coffee-shop owners choose their beans cleverly. I have no choice but to maintain quality in order to succeed in the single-origin market,” said Mr Kurniawan while pouring beans into the roasting machine.
The young farmer became attached to the coffee of Jabung hamlet after marrying Ms Sunarti, a Jabung native. His father-in-law, Suyatno, is a farmer who owns several plots of land planted with vegetables and coffee on the slope of Mount Lawu.
The next challenge
Lawu coffee was long underappreciated on the market because local farmers did not know how best to plant, harvest and prepare the beans to ensure high quality.
Farmers gradually learnt that it was important to harvest the coffee cherries when they turned red before carefully sorting them and handling them with the best full-washed or natural treatment processes afterwards.
The next challenge after this, however, was to promote their coffee on the market.
There was a time when Mr Kurniawan struggled to sell coffee beans door to door or desperately offered them to tourists at Sarangan Lake, which is a distance away from his village.
His situation improved after he took up active roles in coffee communities in Magetan, Madiun, East Java, and Surakarta, Central Java. Lawu coffee started to become familiar among coffee lovers and served as a single-origin option at several coffee shops in Central and East Java.
In order to establish Lawu coffee as a strong brand, he formed a communication forum with fellow coffee farmers in Magetan, including those on the western slope of Mount Lawu, particularly in Gondosuli village.
The forum provides a place where farmers can exchange and share knowledge and information about coffee processing, allowing Lawu coffee from different villages to achieve a similar standard in quality.
The months of May to June are the busiest for Mr Kurniawan and his father-in-law because it is when their coffee plants enter the harvest period.
From each harvest, they can gather up to 300kg of Arabica coffee and 800kg of Robusta coffee. Quantity and quality may differ in every harvest, depending on changes in weather and the intensity of pest attacks.
Arabica Lawu generally has a balanced acidity, with a hint of herbs. Meanwhile, the Robusta Lawu is less full-bodied than the average Javanese robusta and has a hint of chocolate.
Soil conditions and vegetation surrounding the coffee plants, and also the altitude and weather, contribute to the distinct flavours of each single-origin coffee.
At the end of the day, Lawu has enriched the wealth of Javanese coffee and is a welcome addition to the many varieties already popular on the market such as Temanggung, Ambarawa Kelir, Merapi and Malang Dampit.