A group of people walked along a track between Mount Kawi and Mount Kelud in East Java on a Saturday morning in late June. Dressed in traditional Javanese costumes with community and religious figures in the lead, they were heading to punden (graves of ancestors) believed to be the abode of protective holy spirits.
There, they offered prayers and gifts as a plea for a smooth and abundant coffee harvest, a ritual to be followed by a coffee-picking procession at Sengon and Kawi Sari plantations in Wlingi district, Blitar regency.
Harmony in local beliefs that comprise Javanese, Islamic and Hindu faiths is apparent in the tradition, which has been observed since 1870.
The revelers prayed under selected coffee plants before picking 14 coffee beans to represent Saturday Legi (the first day of the Javanese five-day week), in which Saturday symbolizes number nine and Legi is number five.
The 14 beans were then placed into a copper jug and carried by a coffee factory supervisor by using jarik (batik wraparound) to be paraded around the building and announce the arrival of a wedding couple, Joko Gondel and Sri Gondel, the local community’s god and goddess of coffee.
Two men in the bridal parade carried kembar mayang (decorated clusters of coconut leaves) symbolizing Joko Gondel, guarded by three barongan (mythical monsters to drive away evil spirits), proceeding to the factory. At the factory gate, two young ladies were also holding kembar mayang to represent Sri Gondel, ready to escort the couple into the factory.
As they stood beside the factory’s coffee processing machines, the coffee estate chief handed out coffee to the head of the production unit. The jug containing 14 coffee beans was later kept in a sorting room along with the pair of kembar mayang and their offerings.
The entire event wound up with a celebration feast in which factory and estate executives dined along with members of the local community, as a manifestation of their gratitude for being blessed with a plentiful coffee harvest.