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The rise of East Flores’ Leworook coffee helps empower farmers

Hengky Ola Sura

The Jakarta Post

East Flores, East Nusa Tenggara  /  Sun, March 17, 2019  /  05:01 pm
The rise of East Flores’ Leworook coffee helps empower farmers

Black coffee with beans and sack at the background. (Shutterstock/Karynav)

Leworook village in East Flores regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), has a wealth of potential. One of them is coffee that can be compared to the renowned Bajawa Arabica and Manggarai coffees.

Leworook coffee has a distinctive aroma and taste that captivated Yosep “Yolan” Lawe Oyan, a young man from the village, and drove him to open his own coffee business in 2015.

Coffee is not all about flavors, according to Yolan. The beverage carries with it a philosophy and many stories of life. Furthermore, Yolan realizes that with every sip, the coffee reminds him of the tireless efforts of its farmers, including his father and relatives who lived off coffee farming in Leworook.

Coffee farming is not a walk in the park. It could even be more bitter than the coffee itself. Even after laboriously planting the coffee trees, the harvest may not be priced favorably. Sometimes, the price goes up, sometimes it goes down. This raises Yolan’s concern, and he wondered how he could help coffee farmers market their harvest.

Yosep 'Yolan' Lawe Oyan, a young man from Leworook village, was captivated by the distinctive aroma and taste of Leworook coffee.Yosep 'Yolan' Lawe Oyan, a young man from Leworook village, was captivated by the distinctive aroma and taste of Leworook coffee. (JP/Hengky Ola Sura)

“I started my ground coffee business in 2015, as I was concerned about female coffee farmers who found no buyers at Oka market. It was difficult for coffee farmers to sell their harvest back then. The only way was to sell them at Oka market, but many times, there were no buyers and the farmers had to take their coffee home. As I was also raised by a father who is a coffee farmer, I kept thinking of how I could help,” Yolan told The Jakarta Post.

He tried to find a way to place a higher economic value on the coffee.

Getting insights from the time spent in cafes during his university days in Yogyakarta, Yolan and his wife, Elisabeth Nue Manuk, started a coffee business in their spare time. They process the farmers’ coffee beans into ground coffee and they even buy coffee beans from the farmers at a slightly higher price from what was offered by intermediaries.

Yolan, who works at the East Flores Social Affairs Agency, then offers the coffee to small shops after office hours, while his wife sells the ground coffee at Oka market.

Read also: Festival Kopi Nusantara celebrates nation's rich coffee culture, history

There have been times when Yolan finds the coffee business very challenging, so much so that he once shut his business down and switched to selling honey for a while. As time passed, Yolan had the idea to present his coffee in more attractive packages.

Leworook coffee, named after the village, is now a brand that is well-loved by regular buyers. The coffee grows around Mount Leraboleng at a height of 1300-1500 meters above sea level. The fertile soil in which it grows gives the coffee its distinct aroma.Leworook coffee, named after the village, is now a brand that is well-loved by regular buyers. The coffee grows around Mount Leraboleng at a height of 1300-1500 meters above sea level. The fertile soil in which it grows gives the coffee its distinct aroma. (JP/Hengky Ola Sura)

He used to offer the coffee in thin, transparent plastic packages but decided to design better packaging.

Yolan received a Rp 15 million (US$ 1051.36) loan from Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), and persuaded his relatives in his hometown and in Larantuka, NTT, to buy the coffee. His business finally became very profitable after four years of hard work, and he was able to support his family and save money for their future.

Leworook coffee, named after the village, is now a brand that is well-loved by regular buyers. The coffee grows around Mount Leraboleng at a height of 1300-1500 meters above sea level. The fertile soil in which it grows gives the coffee its distinct aroma. However, Yolan believes that the traditional roasting process also contributes to the good taste of the coffee.

“Coffee roasting uses wood fire and the more cambium the wood contains, the better for the coffee,” Yolan said.

East Flower Regent Antonius Hubertus Gege Hadjon voiced his appreciation of Yolan’s initiative and his determination. He said that his administration was committed to helping accelerate the growth of small and medium enterprises in the regency.

“Especially for Leworook coffee, we will push its growth with investment aid through the Selamatkan Orang Muda [Save the Youth] program. We will also put more effort into distributing Leworook coffee outside of East Flores,” Antonius added. (mut)