Gegarang, in Gayo, Sumatra was built during Indonesia's civil war. The village was built, coffee was planted, and people were relocated there about 18 years ago. They didn't know how to grow or produce coffee.
A group called Highland Coffee formed in order to help these people. They were concerned because Gegarang is the type of village targeted by human traffickers. Highland Coffee Company hoped to increase the capacity of this village to make it less susceptible to the wiles and lies of traffickers who offer "job training" to children. They then take the children and sell them onto fishing boats or into the sex trade. Highland Coffee Company's efforts to curb this has resulted in a more secure village, and now with help from Think, an amazing source of Grade 1 Gayo Coffee.
We spent July in Sumatra with our 28 families of coffee producers who are learning to export high quality coffee. We are showing the Gegarang 28 what international buyers expect of them with the hopes that they can use this knowledge to remove themselves from the traditional model of selling coffee fruit to collectors at whatever price is offered to them. We're using one shipping container's worth of coffee (42,000lbs), as a pilot project to show how to pick quality, ripe fruit and interact with the mill, exporter, trucking companies, and bureaucracy. We want the G28 to change from a group of coffee pickers to a proud organization that produces high quality traceable coffee on the international market. We want to increase the farmers' income and capacity for self-determination, higher education, and growth. The village has elected a leader named Supratno to represent the 28 families producing coffee for us.
We've passed a lot of time with these families from Gegarang. Our first trip involved showing them the math necessary to understand the benefits of quality picking. This trip focused on word problems:
"If I pick this much coffee and this much of it is exportable and I pay the mill this much, I pay the trucking company this much, I pay the exporter this much, and Think Coffee pays me this much, how much did I really make?"
"Did I make more than just taking whatever the collectors offered for any coffee fruit?"
"My contract says that if I pick this percentage of perfectly ripe fruit I will get paid for this percentage of it as an exportable product, but I picked this percentage of perfectly ripe fruit resulting in this percentage being un-exportable. But I still get to sell the rest of it domestically for this much, so did I actually do better picking whatever fruit I felt like?"
These questions are hard for people to answer even when they have a lot of experience exporting high quality specialty coffee. The people of Gegarang have learned how to understand the formulas and options available to them to make smart business decisions as a new organization. In our agreement, we have included a guarantee clause that states, yes, they will make more money with us than without. Their largest source of improved income will come as they market the rest of their high-quality coffee to other buyers around the world.
The first picking was in. The percentage of exportable coffee was too low. But they understood. They're facing the problems a lot of us do with effecetive communication. They are trying to establish an effective management structure that will allow for training, follow-up, and accountability. The coffee that made the grade, we cupped. Awesome.
We're confident that Gegarang will be able to replicate the process in coming years and attract larger buyers than us.
Our G28 coffee will arrive in December. We'll remind you.