The women behind Sumatra Ketiara coffee

The makers

The Koperasi Pedagang Kopi Ketiara is a women-run cooperative with nearly 1,000 small farm grower-members who cultivate coffee in the forests of the Takengon Highland (4-5,000 ft. altitude) of Leuser National Park in central Aceh, North Sumatra. But it wasn’t always so…

The Ketiara Cooperative was started in 2008 by current chairman, Ibu Rahmah with only 38 members. She had operated and managed her family’s coffee business for 20 years--purchasing cherries, processing the green, and selling to local traders. She wanted to take this to the next level to help other small farmers and her community.

The passionate commitment of the co-op’s women managers, growers and workers—not to mention the quality of their coffee—has allowed Ketiara to expand to become an important supplier to larger coffee traders in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra. After much discussion, the cooperative members voted to become organic and Fairtrade-certified in 2012. They use proceeds of the premium price their coffee fetches to create important community programs for health, education, and public infrastructure that benefit co-op members, the larger community, and the land around them.

As they put it, “Our passion is about profit and the welfare of our members, satisfaction of our buyers and customers, and protection of land and forest. We prefer an open and transparent trading system. A trading system that brings education to coffee growers. A trading system that creates opportunity for women to take a lead in this male-dominated coffee supply-chain. Is it possible? We don’t know, we just do.”

The process

Sumatra occupies a special niche as a coffee origin, and it has as much to do with the way Sumatrans process their coffee as it does with the terroir. In the common wet or washed method, the fruit is depulped, exposing the seeds still wrapped in their protective shell. This “parchment coffee” is then fermented, washed and carefully dried before the shell is removed. Most Sumatran coffee is “wet-hulled”, which means that the protective “parchment” is stripped at virtually the same time as the fruit and the still-wet beans are laid out on patios to dry out. They turn a dark green and take on “earthy” flavor notes.

The taste

The Ketiara does have that earthy quality but this is balanced by sweetness and dark fruit, making a deliciously full-bodied cup. There are hints of thyme and basil in the aroma, with notes of salted caramel, green apple and cedar in the cup. Sweet and smooth with the full body of a classic Indonesian coffee. At No. Six Depot, we use this in our Seck-Sie blend, where Flavio roasts this bean to three different profiles—bringing out the unique characteristics at each level of roast—and then blends them together. Come on in for a cup, a pourover or a bag.

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