As a woman coming up in the male-dominated, largely conservative Muslim industry of Sumatra coffee, Ms. Rahmah learned to be assertive in negotiations, tend endlessly to the happiness of the farmers she represents, and to make her business a collective representation of the true gender diversity and talent of her community. The original cooperative was Fair Trade certified in 2011 and has grown from 38 original farmer members to almost 2000.
Ratu Ketiara Gayo (RKG) is the Ketiara group's newest business unit: a women's cooperative established in 2017 and co-lead by three of Ms. Rahmah's young proteges: Ms. Indayana as chairwoman; Ms. Dini as quality control; and Ms. Murul Kemala as treasurer. RKG represents a younger generation of farmers, 971 in total, and all of whom are focused on top quality. Together RKG members farm a total of 1,234 hectares of coffee.
Regional coffee distinctions in the northern provinces of Sumatra are interestingly all based on human ethnicity, rather than geography itself. “Mandheling” for example, is a broad label for a widespread cultural group in Sumatra and Malaysia and subsequently the most common coffee trading term, applying to almost any chosen blend of wet-hulled coffees from across the northern half of the island. “Batak” is a Mandheling sub-ethnicity based around Lake Toba and considered a regional coffee pedigree to itself, and often marketed as such. These terms are malleable, and it is often difficult to pinpoint a coffee's exact origin without direct partnerships that allow buyers to travel the entire value chain themselves. “Gayo” is Ketiara's declaration, used to proudly signify a pure microregion and society of coffee from the center of Aceh, handmade by the Gayo people.
Ketiara undoubtedly captures their community's best qualities through careful logistics. The cooperative centrally controls transport, final drying, and sorting for all members' coffee. It also conducts all export business from their headquarters in the mountains, avoiding any further consolidation or exposure of their shipments to Sumatra's humid, balmy coastal climate, where many exporters tend to hold green coffee for sale.
Producer: Ms. Lndayana, Ms. Dini, Ms. Murul Kemala
Region: Gayo Highlands, Sumatra
Varieties: Regional catimor & typica cultivars
Process: Wet-hulled & patio dried in the sun
Altitude: 1,200 - 1,600 MASL