Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Alright... Be prepared, this'll be a long one.

No worries. Lots of pictures.

So last night I updated before dinner. Here's dinner: So after Skyping with my parents and Steve, I wander out into the main room to find a great number of men. They are the managers of different parts of Wahana {Fun Fact: Wahana [wah-hon-a] means sacred land or heaven in "Indian"}. There are what appears to be 15 different plates. I'm sorry, no photos. I felt strange enough being the only female there. Anyway, here's the food line up: fried fish, bbq chicken, curry, buffalo curry, tapioca shoots, rice, satay, tofu, tempeh, chicken soup, shrimp chips, and a few things I either didn't get to trying or forgot. It was a lot. For ten people, it was a lot.  The whole dinner was spent encouraging me to eat this. Eat that. Gee, okay, I'll put this delicious {Fun Fact: Enak [ee-nawk] in Indonesian} food in my belly. So, we're stuffed to the gills, or rather I'm stuffed, and then they break open the Durian. Yes that's right, durian. Nasty smelling durian. And as they are scooping out the slimy whitish globuals of "fruit", I'm told that each durian is different and I should try them all to taste the difference.  .....deep sigh..... okay.

So Durian. Not as awful as it smells, but not as amazing as it should be. Each one was different, but the overwhelming smell really ruins it. The best I can describe the smell is; mold, fresh fish, paper with an intense overarching sweetness. You should try if you get the chance. Don't bring it in your home.

Alright, dinner's over. I'm exhausted. I sleep. Like the dead, until I wake up then I'm up, two hours before I have to be. Ah well. Jet lag.

So here's what happened today: information overload. If you aren't interested in coffee facts, skip on down, because there's going to be a lot of it.

So in Wahana, they are doing something that's fairly uncommon in Sumatra. They are growing 5+ types of coffee. The ones I can remember are Ratsuna, Tipika, Caturra, Longberry, Toraja, and S.795. Rasuna is the local variety. These are all Arabica. The trees, or more like large shrubs, are only 4 years old as planted in the fields. Before that they are grown in nuseries for about a year.
The cherries are sweet-ish. The skin is very bitter, but the pulp is sweet.
Here at Wahana and to the farmers in the area they are doing something that we might think logical, but is not so common; they are picking only the ripe red cherries. Seems so simple, but you have to understand that in Indonesia they don't have a picking season. It is always picking season. When you want to sell coffee it might seem simple to just take everything off the branches and process from there, but the flavor is incredibly different. It also makes the cost of beans higher, because of labor. Wahana also grow vegetables.
If you were wondering, they are working on getting Rainforest Alliance certified as well as Utz and organic. They don't have it yet, because this is the first year they've gotten a real crop. Last year it was just about one container. Much more now. Also, all the coffee is shade grown, so when they plant the coffee shrubs they plant faster growing trees next to them.
Up next we have the processing center. When I say processing here's what I mean: separating and washing the cherries, popping and depulping them, soaking them, drying and then dehulling them again only to be dried once more. Let's go into that.

Separating is the first step in making sure there aren't leaves, sticks, inappropriate-non-coffee-stuff. Then they wash and pop the cherry only to depulping it. There are a few layers in between the outside skin and the bean and all this is to get down to the bean. The beans are then soaked and dried. But that's not all folks! There is still another layer on the bean (actually two, but the other comes off in roasting). This is what dehulling is. The hard-ish layer is sort of brushed off the bean and then they are let dry again. Or speedily dried in large dryers. Think a giant laundry dryer with just the barrel.

That's the quick version.

The water used is collected rainwater and reused. They used to clean the water with chlorine, but found that it imparted too much flavor.

This was my day up until noon. Al lui and Andry both had to go back to Medan and I am to stay one more day, so Andry asked a couple of his guys to show me the other part of their business. Collecting and processing other local coffee. This is stuff grown by farmers and processed and sold by Opal coffee. They used to have the farmers, or another middle man called the collector, who depulps and processes the coffee on his own, take care of that, but there is so much inconsistency that they aim to have the coffee cherries, freshly picked, taken directly to Wahana.

See, you and I might think that as soon as you pick all the red cherries, you would immediately start processing, but that is not common. Sometimes, it's too late in the day, or it's raining outside and just doesn't get done. When that happens the cherries began to rot and ferment. It smells like apple cider vinegar. Not good for the sensitive bean.

Anyway, we drove around looking at farms and collectors and Robusta plants and other locally grown plants, like tobacco and rice and sweet potatoes. WOW. So beautiful.

As we're driving back up the mountain to Wahana, Fren asked I was tired yet. No, of course not. So we go to a 'touristy' place. The best I can describe it is as a multi religious roadside amusement park. Very weird. I'm going to let the photos describe what I cannot.

Now I'm back to the guest house. Oh here's the guest house:

And I'm taking a half hearted nap, when tap tap on my door and it's time to drive down to town for dinner with Andry's brother, *****, the accountant and another gentleman whose name I never caught. And it's Chinese food time. Real chinese food. It's real good. Corn and chicken soup, chickeny other thing and pork vegetable thing. Yum Yum. On the way home, after a lovely conversation about coffee, latte art, agriculture, and travel, ***** stopped and picked up fried bananas. If you know me, bananas are god's gift to living creatures. **** said that they are the best around too. It was pretty dang good.

Listen folks, I'm tired. I'll write more tomorrow. (my tomorrow, your today)

Anya Out.

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