Muhtar grows standout coffee on his family farm that is some of the best we’ve tasted from this region
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Muhtar (known only by one name as is the custom here) was one of many producers who contributed to our coffee from the Bies Penantan community. We were taken by his beautiful, vibrant farm, meticulously pruned and organically fertilized. We asked the Ketiara Cooperative to set aside his coffee from the rest and here we found some of the cleanest, sweetest Indonesian coffees we’ve ever tasted.
Muhtar’s bright spirit and pride for his work abounds – on our last visit, he practiced his English with us and sang a bittersweet ballad about how when you’re feeling heavy you can always lean on a coffee tree.
Kopi means coffee in Indonesian. This region has all the right moves when it comes to growing coffee - high elevation, nutrient rich, volcanic soil and favorable microclimates. Tradition reigns here and the homegrown, backyard processing, semi-washed approach is prevalent, which imparts a very distinct Sumatran coffee profile: earthy and heavy-bodied.
We started working with the Ketiara Co-op whose attention to detail and clean processing makes all the difference. They set aside Muhtar’s lot for us, which has that unmistakable Indonesian earthiness along with alluring clarity and sweetness. We liked it so much we’re offering it as our first ever single producer micro lot from this region.
Muhtar is very conscientious of the health of his plants. He applies his spent coffee cherry as fertilizer in a trench he carefully digs around every coffee tree. He processes his coffee in the traditional semi-washed method and cultivates it under a canopy of shade trees.
Like most farmers of the region, he integrates his coffee trees with plantings of avocado, ginger, orange and banana between rows of coffee trees for sustenance and to help maintain soil health.
We met Muhtar on his family’s lush coffee farm, along with his 100-year-old mother. Muhtar recently moved back into the Bies Penantan community to take over the family farm. He studied agronomy and gladly shares his knowledge and techniques with his neighbors. Muhtar is very conscientious of the health of his plants. He processes his coffee in the traditional semi-washed method. He cultivates his coffee under a carefully cultivated canopy of shade trees and integrates his other crops of spices and fruits and vegetables for his family which helps maintain soil health.
He utilizes a pruning technique common to the area, but not often seen elsewhere, that gives the coffee tree an umbrella shape. The pruning technique allows the light to cascade throughout the coffee plant. Typically, sun predominantly hits the top branches, but Muhtar’s method provides consistent distribution of sunshine to all branches, even the normally shaded low ones. His shade trees help control the amount of sunlight the coffee trees receive each day. He calls these trees husbands and wives: the ‘husband’ (shade tree) takes care of the ‘wife’ (coffee tree) by providing relief from the sun.
After the harvest, the cherry is depulped, fermented and then the parchment covered beans are dried in the sun to about 30% moisture content. After they remove the parchment by hulling the beans (known as wet-hulling since the parchment retains so much moisture), the still wet beans are then dried in the sun for a second time (to about 18% moisture content). Finally, they dry the beans one last time, hand sort the coffee for quality assurance, then pack it up for export.