Once again, we’ve made the trip from New York to Hong Kong to Singapore to Medan to Takengon to Gegarang to spend time with our G28 farming friends and the mill that processes their coffee.
This trip, we brought our special friends from Think Korea, Shin and Fun. It was important to us that our Korean counterparts understood the complexities and challenges involved with having real personal relationships with our farmers. They experienced first-hand the interminable meetings and repetitive dialogue necessary to maintain real and personal relationships and the highest coffee quality. They experienced the six flights and grueling 30 hours of mountain road travel required to get one to Gegarang. They experienced the obsessive tenacity of the Think Coffee purchasing team in getting the relationship right and practicing truly fair commerce.
Our G28 project consists of 28 families in Gegarang. We are teaching them how to increase quality and develop their own relationship with the mill, PUSKUD, so they can sell their own coffee on the international market and market it as GEGARANG coffee rather than the more general GAYO or SUMATRA. The farmers are developing a sense of pride in their own coffee. Slowly.
To change from being people who just pick coffee to being people who produce a high-quality export product, the G28 need several important things to change:
-They must pick and deliver to the mill only red, ripe fruit. They are struggling with this and it is costing them money, but once again we explained the importance of red fruit to quality and profit. We hope it starts to sink in. Supratno, the leader of G28, constantly reminds member families of the importance of proper picking, but a generation of poor practices does not change quickly.
-They must constantly refer to their agreement with us and take responsibility for their part. Again, struggling, but this is a pilot project, designed to act as an educational tool. Each time we visit, we remind the G28 of this. They sometimes forget this is not a one-time coffee purchase. It is a project that can be replicated so all of Gegarang can provide high-quality, high-priced coffee to market. It was their idea.
-They must follow the recommendations of an agronomist to ensure production and sustainability. They have hired their own agronomist and are awaiting soil sample laboratory results.
-The mill must greatly increase the quality capacity of their operation. We have studied their procedures several times and are creating a mill improvement manual with them. Hendro and Apra, the managers of PUSKUD mill are also new to quality practices. We will be patient with them just as we have been patient with ourselves as we learn how to form long-term relationships with farmers around the world and interact with the complex coffee supply chain that brings Think Coffee to your cup.
Our 28 farmers did not produce as much coffee as we had hoped from this harvest. This is primarily due to poor picking practices. This means they are in danger of actually making less money with Think Coffee than they did before we ever formed the relationship. It can be painful, but we all must learn from our business successes and mistakes.
We will return in April of this year to see how the improvements are going. If improvement is made, we can bring other international buyers with us who can greatly increase the volume of the Gegarang product.
We would be remiss not to mention that the coffee coming to our New York and Seoul stores is amazing. It’s fruity and earthy, creamy and smooth. By continuing to educate the farmers they can benefit more and more from their coffee.
We look forward to incorporating this coffee into Think Blend. We will also offer it as a limited edition Single Source coffee so everyone can share in the unique flavors of Gegarang.