Indonesia is rich in coffee, especially from the eastern part of the country. Unfortunately, the issues with adequate knowledge have made coffee from this part go unexposed. To tackle such issues, some people make sure that does not happen. One of the coffee products they would like to introduce more to the world is West Papuan coffee.
How do coffee shop owners deal with challenges in promoting West Papuan coffee?
Introducing: Rini Sulistyawati
Although relatively a newbie in the coffee business, Rini Sulistyawati is relentless in introducing coffee from West Papua. She is all-out in educating Papuans regarding the preciousness of their commodity and how to work on the after-harvest procedures properly.
Rini made a bold move leaving Jakarta in March 2020 and starting her new life in Timika, Papua. Back then, her employment contract with USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) for the program in Papuan biodiversity had ended. She was inspired to do something more for the West Papuans.
After working with USAID for seven years, Rini has developed an acquaintanceship with Christian missionaries in Papua. They are established well in the local communities in remote villages. That is how her coffee beans project started.
As a former journalist, Rini has been used to doing a lot of background research. From her independent research, Rini has discovered a variety of coffee beans in West Papua. Unfortunately, the potential goods had suffered some serious neglect for tens of years since the Dutch colonization ended in 1963 in Papua. Many coffee plantations there had gone unharvested.
According to Rini, on the highlands of West Papua, a huge amount of coffee plants are let grown up to two meters tall. Unfortunately, not many care enough to pick up the fallen fruits from the coffee plants.
After The Covid-19 Pandemic Began In 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the world more than anyone could ever imagine. Despite the rising numbers of unemployment and the uncertainty in almost all business industries, it did not stop Rini from starting her own coffee shop business in mid-2020 in Timika.
She rented a house and named her coffee shop “Maoke”. The name was taken from a mountain range in Papua New Guinea’s cordillera, stretching from the west to the east of Papua’s central part.
Maoke soon became popular, mostly visited by the staff of PT. Freeport there. This company is an affiliate of US Freeport-MacMoRan, Inc. and MII (Mining Industry Indonesia). Freeport owns a site for copper and mining near Timika.
Maoke is located in a small alley. Every night, it is packed with loads of customers. Even officers in the military and police forces in the area often visit the place. One cup of coffee at Maoke costs around 25 to 50 thousand rupiahs.
Maoke is the token coffee shop that serves real West Papuan coffee. Getting the beans from 13 villages there has been one of Rini’s challenges in promoting the coffee. According to Rini, West Papua consists of mountains broken by valleys and lowlands covered in tropical rain forests. The infrastructure has been poor, which leads to accessibility issues.
It is no surprise that the prices for West Papuan coffee are very costly. Aside from the transportation cost to get to the coffee bean sources (which can be up to 45 million rupiahs), Rini has to pay local farmers and priests. The raw coffee beans are sometimes not good quality – unsorted, unpeeled, and undried.
However, the struggle to promote West Papuan coffee to the world is not over yet. With the help of many people in West Papua, including Bernard Ansaka, head of the plantation department of a local agricultural agency, Rini’s mission is to get this coffee to compete globally.