As a prelude to the conference, I had the opportunity to visit Flores, a large island about 300 miles east of Bali that is a source of high-quality Arabica coffee. Flores is less well known than some other Indonesian origins; however, it is beginning to make a name for itself.
On this field trip, I joined Kim Elena Ionescu, Chief Sustainability Officer of the Specialty Coffee Association, and colleagues from Lutheran World Relief (LWR). Our destination on Flores was Bajawa, a town at 1,100 MAMSL located near Ngada communities, many of which are sandwiched between active volcanoes.
As we emerged from the small Komodo Airport on Flores, we were met by an SUV that whisked us to a small café minutes away called Revinco Kedai Kopi (Revinco Coffee Shop). It is in a small residential area of Labuan Bajo, where we had about 90 minutes to relax before our flight to Bajawa.
Labuan Bajo is the tourist gateway to the Komodo dragons: because of this attraction, rent is high in the community. As we sipped delicious cups of coffee from Bajawa – good acidity, medium body, and hints of plum, brewed either with a French Press or V60 – we also enjoyed incredibly sumptuous banana pancakes, drizzled with honey. While there, we learned that the café was conceived of and opened by Vivi Pane from LWR, and a former colleague of hers who offered his garage to house the café. It was very comfortable and the perfect place to catch our breath between flights.
When we landed in Bajawa, we were met by Vivi, who shared that her vision for Revinco Kedai Kopi is for the café to serve high-quality Arabica coffee only from Bajawa. As her parents farm coffee, Vivi’s hope is that the café will help visiting coffee lovers develop a finer appreciation for the work involved in producing high-quality coffee from Bajawa, while also providing a space to link visiting coffee professionals with high-quality green coffee.
That evening Kim, Vivi, and I stayed in the home of Mama Lina, a coffee farmer in the village of Radabata. We had a traditional dinner of beef, dried fish, well-seasoned young pumpkin leaves, rice, hot chilis, and more – the perfect end to a busy day. The following morning, Kim and I walked around the village before sunrise, and spent a few hours harvesting coffee in the hills above the community, just miles from the active Mount Ebulobo volcano.
Before leaving Flores, we met with the Fa Masa coffee cooperative leadership in Bajawa that serves farmers in the area. The ground floor of their two-story building had an attractive new café, which served coffee grown by the cooperative’s members. Vivi was also instrumental in establishing this café.
Before leaving Flores, I asked Vivi why the two cafés were important to her and to the local communities. She replied: “One of the challenges facing coffee communities in Bajawa and other coffee-growing areas of Indonesia is providing employment opportunities for young people. This was important in planning the two cafés. The Fa Masa and Labuan Bajo cafés each employ three young people, all of whom are women. My dream is that these young women will take this opportunity to learn about business and entrepreneurship, and in two to three years will share what they have learned with other young people, to encourage them to start their own businesses that will support this beautiful island and its coffee communities.”
Our visit confirmed that Vivi’s coffee dream is alive and brewing well on the island of Flores.
RICK PEYSER is the Sr. Coffee & Cocoa Relationship Manager at Lutheran World Relief and the author of Brewing Change: Behind the Bean at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
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