This month at Coffee Crate, we’re thrilled to share a very special coffee from Ingenious Coffee Roasters in Marion, NC. Eli from Ingenious Coffee Roasters shares his story of partnering with Ric Hariyanto of Sriwijaya Coffee to bring Coffee Crate the West Java Siliwangi coffee. These unlikely business partners halfway across the globe from each other have come a long way in developing a delicious high quality coffee that is enabling the growers from the Sunda tribe to maintain their coffee heritage and sustain the local economy.
From Eli Ornberg of Ingenious Coffee Roasters :
” Somewhere around 2011 I was employed to roast coffee and responsible for purchasing coffee at another company. The Direct Trade movement was new and a personal dream of mine to get involved. Some coffee companies were quite large and capable of making origin trips and such and my employer did not seem interested in the idea. Fortunately for me however I met Mr. Ric Hariyanto!
I began seeing some broken English emails in my inbox from some company called Sriwijaya Coffee. I answered a few and asked some questions and learned they were new and primarily focused on Indonesian coffees. I was curious and ordered some samples and was fascinated in the cuppings. I had never tasted sumatran coffees like these. Also there was a sample sent titled West Java. I purchased a few bags of Sumatra and we sold them as limited edition coffees. To my surprise one day at work this guy shows up unannounced and introduces himself as Ric Hariyanto of Sriwijaya Coffee. He asked me if I had time to chat. I was so excited. I turned down the roaster and we had about a 2 hour conversation. He informed me he grew up in the western part of the Island of Java. He was blessed with well-off parents and was able to attend college in America. Upon graduation he returned to Indonesia to open Sriwijaya Coffee. He was entirely focused on offering roasters the best of Indonesian Coffees as well as working for the best interest of the farmers he worked with. He showed me maps and taught me so much about Indonesia. At that time it was rare to see single region Sumatra at any of the green bean brokers. He was the first to inform me that Mandheling was the name of a tribe and that when you purchased Sumatra Mandheling that it could be coffee mixed from different regions. He was offering specific regions of Sumatra, which wasn’t very common.
As our conversation continued he also showed a great amount of Humility. He informed me he was still learning a lot about coffee and asked me a lot of questions about roasting. Before leaving he asked me to be sure and try the West Java Sample that it was close to his heart for it was from the Island in Indonesia he grew up in. He stated he was only here for 3 weeks and had a lot of other roasters to go chat with and bid me farewell.
So for the next year I began communicating and doing business with Ric via email. I would order through email and he would send a release to New Jersey where he exported the coffee to himself and stored it. I began to feel that this was the closest I had ever come to some sort of Direct Trade. We emailed constantly and he not only shared about coffee but the culture of Indonesian areas as well. We became not only business
partners but great friends as well.
Somewhere in the spring of 2012 Ric returned to the States again for a 4 week visit to roasters. I invited
him to stay at my apartment a couple of nights instead of a Hotel and we talked for almost 3 days straight in person. I took him up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and also to my parents log cabin where we had a good old American cookout. We had the best of times and here is where the West Java Story Begins………….
It was his last night in Asheville and we stayed up all night talking about all sorts of stuff…coffee, religion, food,
ideas,………..Anyways he asked if I had liked the bag of West Java (I did try the sample bag and ordered a whole bag, It was awesome)
I told him it was awesome and to tell me more about it. He explained that most coffee from the Island of Java is from
the eastern region (Java Bwalan, East Timor, Indo Java Estate, etc.) Also he informed me that most of eastern Java coffee is
from Government Estates meaning that most of the profit goes to the government instead of the workers and farmers.
His coffee however was from West Java. A small village he was working with and he paid them directly. The area was
near where he grew up and he told me that he would like to help the village even more.
He informed me that he was purchasing the coffee from the village at a small rate per pound in the Red Berry Form, because they did not know how to process it so he was transporting the coffee to another location to have it processed. So he paid not only the farmers but the processing center. He told me his dream was to help the village learn how to process it so he could pay them more and if I could maybe help him. Yes! Here was a golden opportunity to possible work directly with the farmers. I said I would do whatever in my power I could…….What do you need Ric? He told me mainly his first run would be 20 bags. The village only produced a total of 80 bags and he could not risk the whole lot the first year. He asked if we could commit to the 20 bags and that if any were not usable he would not charge us. Also if I could give feedback on the coffee and possible advise for improvements on the next lot.
The following day Ric left and I was able to convince my boss that we would commit to the 20 bags and I would come in extra time to analyze it and also that we would not have to pay for any bad coffee.
The next couple of months Ric set up the village with a small processing center with milling machines and such. We recieved our first shipment of the new lot in early fall of 2012. For the next few months I roasted, analyzed, took moisture contents, recorded cupping notes, took pictures and emailed, emailed, and emailed data to Ric. In all we had to throw 5 of the first 10 bags in the trash and were able to use only 5.
I had discovered very high moisture contents in all of the unusable bags as well as mold. Also even the good bags were
not top grade as they were full of defects but no mold. I began to question Ric on the drying process due to the mold and most of the defect seeming to come from this according to my study. He informed me they were drying the coffee on carpet! So when it rained they would roll it up. Also the desired moisture content should be between 12% to 14%. They were determining this by feel of hand. So my first advise was to purchase a moisture reader for them. Ric agreed and then we decided best to get rid of the carpet and I advised a raised bed with cover would be a better alternative. Ric agreed and built them one.
Lastly I questioned why the green bean bags had so many defects. We were able to determine that 3 different families were in charge of sorting and they had no oversight. So each family’s idea of good sorting was different. Ric immediately put one member of the tribe in charge of overseeing the sorting.
The second batch was the same due to being processed before implemented the changes. So all in all the first lot of 20 bags 9 were thrown away and 11 were used in low end blends.
So when the next lot in 2013 came I was so excited to see if our changes had worked. They did and I agreed to Ric to move up a price point due to the quality! It was amazing and the tribe has been repeating the quality ever since! So you now can see this coffee is very important to me as well as Ric.
Since opening our new company, Ingenious Coffee Roasters I have continued to work with Ric and hope soon to make my first trip to West Java to meet in person the members as soon as capital is available for the trip. Might I also add that my current Partner Jonathan Jones was involved with this journey as well. He has also created a great relationship with Ric and we look forward to working with Ric for many more years.
In all honesty the term Direct Trade is used very loosely in our Industry today. But in my heart this is the closest for now that I have experienced direct trade. I hope you enjoyed my story! “
Roaster Guy, Eli