Ever since my first sip of TOARCO Jaya AA, my mind has been transported to tropical and exotic worlds of taste. TOARCO sends my palette to a world of the varied and complex acidity of mango-tomato chutney, and a sweetness that is reminiscent of raw vanilla and black strap molasses. Whenever I get to experience a cup like this I am captivated by the varied and countless influences that brings a coffee like this to Blueprint. I want to leave my job and family and spend the next ten years researching and picking apart every aspect of the process to try to isolate the unique taste aspects of the coffee. Fortunately for my family, I cannot do that and I am left with trying to learn from afar – the torment of every coffee nerd.
It is never just the terroir that creates the framework for specialty coffee to reach its peak. In most cases it is a balance between two key elements: a growing region’s potential with regards to terroir and the willingness of its producers to collaboratively improve all aspects of processing.
The P.T. TOARCO Jaya cooperative draws it name from the first two letters of three words. “TOraja is the region in south Sulawesi, Indonisea where it is located. “ARabica” is the species of coffee it cultivates. “COffee” is its export. The region has a long coffee history with its roots in Dutch colonial production, but after World War II the ownership of land and mills transitioned to small farmers. With the loss of infrastructure, coffee became a mere cash crop and didn’t have much, if any, focus on quality production. This sounds somewhat deceiving since Indonesia is the fourth largest coffee producer in the world behind Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia.
Indonesia has lost appeal over time due to unreliable quality, unfavorable government programs, and poor incentives to farmers. It is often increased demand for coffee worldwide, government support, and importer incentive that can change the appeal of a country’s coffee export. This is exactly what Key Coffee Inc. and Toshoku (now Cargill) partnered to do in the Tana Toraja district of south Sulawesi starting in 1976. Key Coffee, responding to an increase in the demand of coffee in Japan, sent a research team to Indonesia and identified the Tana Toraja region as a promising location for the “revival of the mysterious coffee”* of Indonesia.
This process, occurring over 38 years, began by changing the influences in the region to be more favorable to the culture and procedures that bring a coffee to specialty grade. The early changes involved creating favorable political and trade conditions for the trade of Arabica coffee between Indonesia and the rest of the world, mainly Japan. As markets began to change and coffee preferences evolved toward a specialty grade coffee, P.T. TOARCO Jaya began influencing green coffee purchasing incentives by offering post-processing education, establishing and maintaining rigorous green coffee standards, and improving pre-export storage and handling.
Most mills in Indonesia purchase unprocessed cherry or semi-washed parchment from small farmers. By transitioning this purchase away from unprocessed cherry and to dry parchment, TOARCO deferred the high cost of labor and processing for their mills and increased the value of the crop for the farmer. This naturally led into free education classes to ensure the farmers are processing the coffee to the standard set by TOARCO. They also assist famers by providing free seedlings and 100 depulping machines that improve post-harvest quality. The mutually beneficial loop among producer, cooperative, roaster, and consumer is exactly what Blueprint seeks to support in our green coffee purchasing.
*Quote from and much research drawn from “Key Coffee: Establishing Specialty Coffee Toarco Toraja by Building Capacity of Farmers and Middlemen” by Hidemi Yoshida and Agnes Rampisela
**Photo provided by Café Imports