West Java - Bringing Within The Beans!
The harvest season is likely one of the most necessary occasions for the villagers- gathering, drying and processing their crops for the months ahead is a a lot anticipated annual event. The effort required to efficiently harvest rice, coffee and cloves concurrently includes the collective efforts of all the village- young and old. The harvesting often begins earlier than daybreak, occurring properly into the dusk as coffee is picked and carried into the village centres for processing.
Most of the coffee is grown along the steep slopes of the river valleys that carry clean water tumbling down from the mountains shrouded in fixed cloud. Slender, single tracks lead up to the coffee trees, predominantly rising as sub cover under taller remnants of the rain forest that used to cover most of mountainous Java. The climb as much as the coffee can be difficult. Steps are minimize into the crumbly volcanic soils, however as shortly as these are made, the rains wash them away. For a fit European, the climb a number of kilometres up will be very hard, exhausting work. The villagers climb these paths each day- not only to have a tendency the coffee timber, but in addition to chop 70kg bundles of mountain grass to deliver down for livestock feed. Barefoot, for added grip and stability, is the best way to go each up- and down these tracks.
The coffee is a mixture of Robusta with a little or no Arabica grown on the higher slopes. The Robusta is favorred, as it is easier to grown and preserve, and the yields on this a pangandaran part of Indonesia are generally higher. Picking can be apparently simpler, with the Robusta cherries rising ripe in helpful bunches alongside the branches of the coffee trees.
Climbing up at daybreak the villages, with me in tow, work in earnest on picking coffee from a gaggle of trees rising precariously over a river gorge, effervescent with rain from the evening before. In the early morning the temperature remains to be cool, and the shade from the bushes overhead and from the ridge above means the mornings work is pleasant. The hampers being filled are made from rattan, and slung on with local, colourfully decorated batik sarongs. The harvesters are all female- principally of their late 30's or older. The lads are on the lower slopes, harvesting rice with out the shade we are getting up on the slopes. The picking is down in a jovial atmosphere. Songs are sung in the local Sundanese dialect, as well as a couple of spicy "dangdut" tunes in the Indonesian language. Gossip, invariably about husbands or single men, can also be common place. The women's fingers transfer nimbly and shortly over the branches of the timber, picking largely the ripe cherries- burgundy in colour and bulging with sugar. The sweet scent of among the cherries that are crushed into the hampers is intoxicating- almost just like the aroma of ripe blackcurrants blended with blackberries. Fingers stained with coffee juice often pop a ripe cherry or two into the pickers' mouth. Delicious and refreshing.