Baguio by way of Indonesia

Evan Gilman, a Kalsada contributor, is a coffee professional from Seattle, Washington who has been in the industry for more than 12 years.  His recent travels have brought him to Southeast Asia to gain first hand knowledge of coffee processing in Indonesia, obtain Q Grader certification, and tour with Berkeley, California’s Gamelan Sekar Jaya. Currently, he also writes articles for Sprudge, and assists Kalsada with quality control and traceability.

We asked Evan to write about his first experiences with Kalsada.

Melvin and I wait the bus outside the gate of Benguet State University, jeepneys and trucks stirring up dust in the morning light.  Having recently come to Baguio by way of Indonesia, I expect a wait of anywhere between and hour and all day, but Melvin assures me the bus comes every thirty minutes. Just as I begin to consider sitting on the curb, the bus trundles up and we hop aboard.

We are headed to Belis, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the state of the roads here.  There is full pavement all the way to the farming areas, and we are taking public transport nearly all the way there.  A far cry from roads I have been on in Flores or Sulawesi, some of which are roads in name only.  We disembark after a considerably twisted stretch of road, and make our way from nearly 1800 meters above sea level down to a little more than 1400.

When we arrive, our host Cecilia is preparing coffee for fermentation with her homemade pulper.  The coffee beans come out together with the skin onto a screen; the beans fall through, while the skins stay atop the screen.  After they are finished pulping the coffee, they put it into a container to soak overnight in the process known as fermentation.  The sticky pulp of the coffee will rinse off easier this way in the morning.  Cecilia lets us take a few turns at the pulper, and we show her how to float the coffee cherries beforehand to remove the less dense beans.

The pulper gets the job done, but every once in while a bean comes out squished, creating more work for whoever sorts through the green coffee.  Many homemade pulpers I’ve seen in Sumatra and Sulawesi have a similar effect.  I wrack my brain in a quest for an elegant solution, and remember that a nearby village actually fabricates a nifty disc pulper for a very reasonable price.  I’ve seen it in action and it works like a charm, separating cherry and bean down different channels.  With any luck, they have some in stock.  This would support local business, foster good relations between villages, result in better coffee, and give Cecilia’s arm a break from turning the heavy wooden crank on her pulper.

The Philippines was once a major coffee producing country, and some of the aspects of good processing are evident here in the mountains outside Baguio.  Many if not all of the coffees I have seen here are very clean and have a minimal amount of defects even before sorting.  This is evidence of a culture of good processing, as the practices that result in good coffee are not always intuitive.

Evan, exploring the rice terraces of Mt. Province

Evan, exploring the rice terraces of Mt. Province