THE ORIGIN OF THE COFFEE CULTURE IN ACEH
Is coffee a long-standing cultural tradition in Aceh?
Coffee culture was not found in Aceh until near the end of the 19th Century. An orientalist who became a sociocultural researcher, Snouck Hurgronye wrote in The Achehnese Volume I, during his research of the Acehnese, “For most ordinary people in Aceh, water is almost the only drink, from time to time (occasionally) it will drink sugar cane juice, squeezed from the trunk only with a very primitive tool.” From this situation, the term “ngon bloe ie teubee” means more or less: “sugar cane buyer money” if it is meant to pay wages or rewards.”
February 11, 1899, Teuku Umar and his troops have been on the outskirts of Meulaboh. The Acehnese warriors were surprised to learn that Van Heutsz’s troops had intercepted them. The position of his troops is not profitable and no longer possible to withdraw. The only way to save his army was to fight. In the battle, Teuku Umar was killed by enemy bullets that pierced his chest. “Beungoh singoh geutanyoe jep kupi in keude Meulaboh atawa ulon akan syahid” means “tomorrow morning we will drink coffee in Meulaboh city or I will be martyr”, that is a series of short words Teuku Umar which is inscribed on the Inscription in Mugoe Village, Meulaboh at the end of the struggle. Based on Teuku Umar’s words it is certain that coffee has been circulating in Aceh at that time but still an expensive imported goods. The murder of Teuku Umar occurred 26 years after the Aceh War took place and 5 years after Snouck Hurgronje’s book was published (1893-1894).
When is the coffee planted in Aceh?
At the time of the Sultanate of Aceh Darussalam, pepper plant is the main livelihood as rice. Tome Pires (1512-1515) noted that Pidie and Pasai harbors then traded 16,000 Bahar (a measure of weight about 400 lb) or about 2,718 tonnes per year. Even until near the end of the 19th century before the Dutch attacked, Aceh was the world’s leading producer of pepper. On 26 March 1873 the Dutch declared war on the Sultanate of Aceh, the war continued until 1904. Sultan Muhammad Daudsyah was captured by the Dutch in January 1904, the great war ended but the Acehnese resistance with guerrilla war continued until the Dutch left Aceh forever in 1942. The war with the Dutch had made Aceh’s pepper glory disappear and only became a memory.
The coffee plant was originally brought by the Dutch in the eighteenth century through Batavia (now Jakarta) to be planted in Aceh in 1908. The first coffee introduced was Arabica coffee first cultivated in North Lake Lut Tawar. In the world, coffee can be divided into 2 groups by type, namely Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee. In Aceh, these two types of coffee are cultivated by the local community. Arabica coffee is commonly cultivated in the highlands of Gayo Land, including Takengon, Southeast Aceh, and Gayo Lues. While in Pidie (mainly Tangse and Geumpang) and West Aceh, communities develop Robusta coffee. The Netherlands ordered the people of Aceh who became farmers at that time to consume Robusta coffee, while Arabica for self-consumption (Netherlands) and for export.
In Aceh, the Netherlands discovered a vast plateau known as Gayo Land located in the heart of this region, which based on the research they did was very suitable for planting Coffee. And from where the magic began. In Gayo Land, the Netherlands builds its government base in Takengon which is located right on the shore of Lake Lut Tawar whose surface is at an altitude of 1250 Mdpl. Lately, this city developed into a center of economy and government and became the largest city in Gayo Land. The first Dutch-developed coffee plantation in the area called Belang is located not far from the city. To this day, this area is known as one of the best coffee producing areas in Gayo Land. From Belang Gele, Coffee spread to all corners of Gayo Land with cool mountain air.
In 1924 the Dutch and European investors had begun making land dominated by coffee, tea, and vegetable crops (John R Bowen, Sumatran Politics, and Poetics, Gayo History 1900-1989, page 76). Then, in 1933, in Takengon, 13,000 hectares of land had been planted with coffee called the Netherlands as a commodity “Product for future”. Gayo society writes John R Bowen, is very quick to accept (adopt) new crops and plant them in the limited lands of citizens. New settlements in that era, especially along the road are cleared for export-quality coffee.
History of Arabica Gayo Coffee
After the War of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia (1945-1949), the Dutch finally recognized the independence of the Republic of Indonesia through the Round Table Agreement (KMB). As happened in Java, all their assets including coffee plantations are left behind in Gayo. But unlike in Java, the operation of the plantation is continued by government companies and the workers are still employed in Java. In Gayo, things are different. After the Dutch left, the remaining coffee gardens were distributed to local communities, especially those previously employed there.
The Government of the Republic of Indonesia granted all the coffee plantations in Gayo land to a Gayo military officer named Ilyas Leubee who in the revolution became one of the leaders in Medan Area battlefield. Ilyas Leubee did not take the gift for himself. Distributed it to the surrounding community and did not continue the management of the gardens, so the Dutch heritage factory was neglected and became the old iron until now. Found that coffee plants are very profitable. Farmers who did not get even coffee plantations started planting empty land around them with coffee crops, so there are at least 90,000 hectares of coffee plantations in the Gayo highlands that are now separated into three districts (Central Aceh, Bener Meriah, and Gayo Luwes). This makes the Gayo highlands the largest Arabica coffee producer not only in Indonesia but also Asia. Because Gayo’s coffee plantation is managed by individual farmers with a maximum average land holding of 2 hectares.
Aceh’s lush natural conditions, combined with supportive weather, have made Aceh’s coffee plants thrive into a high-quality, profitable commodity. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest coffee exporter, and Aceh is one of the largest coffee producers capable of producing about 40% of the premium Arabica beans of total coffee harvest in Indonesia.
This phenomenon occurs because Aceh does have a vast coffee plantation stretching between the Bukit Barisan mountains covering the district of Central Aceh which has an area of 48,500 hectares of coffee plantations, Bener Meriah 39.000 Hectare and Gayo Luwes covering 7,000 hectares. Total Highland Gayo coffee plantation around 94.5000 hectares mostly cultivated type of arabica coffee with the production reaches 50,774 tons per year.
With the vastness of Aceh’s plantations, it is only natural that Aceh is one of the largest suppliers of Arabica coffee in the world and Asia’s largest coffee producer. The type of arabica coffee developed by farmers on the Gayo highlands has the smoothest texture and the richest and most complex taste.
Unfortunately, at this time, the Gayo Coffee brand is registered under Dutch law on behalf of Holland Coffee which openly prohibits others from using Gayo on their coffee brands. Whereas Gayo itself is a geographical area owned by Indonesia is not the Netherlands.
History of Robusta Coffee Aceh
Robusta coffee beans are produced from selected quality coffee beans, mostly from Lamno, Aceh Jaya District. The coffee beans are produced by small and medium enterprises. By the locals, this high-quality coffee powder is then uniquely processed, from grinding to filtering to a cup in a separate way. This is why Aceh coffee, especially coffee Ulee Kareng is then transformed into an icon of Aceh itself. The awesomeness of Aceh’s coffee aroma has long been legendary in Indonesia and is now also worldwide thanks to a large number of coffee lovers from international workers who came and lived in Aceh for many years to reconstruct Aceh after the tsunami.
To get the unique taste, Aceh coffee beans through a long process. First of all, usually, coffee beans in diesel for 4 hours. After reaching maturity 80%, coffee beans mixed with sugar and butter with a certain dose. Then the cooked coffee beans are ground until smooth. This process evokes the aroma of strong coffee, a clean taste, and no sour taste.
What makes Aceh coffee more interesting is its distinctive presentation style that is different from the way coffee is served anywhere in the world. Coffee brewed with water kept steady. The steaming coffee is filtered repeatedly with a strainer made of cloth, then poured from one kettle to another. The result is a very solid coffee, fragrant, and clean without containing coffee powder.
Coffee Culture Boom in Aceh
One of the wonders of time is its ability to change people. Similarly, the habits of society with all its activities must change according to the times. If in the nineteenth century the people of Aceh knew absolutely no coffee, so until the end of the 20th century Aceh was still a major coffee producer then in the 21st century the coffee culture has become part of the Acehnese tradition.
In 2004, the tsunami hit Indonesia. Aceh is the greatest area affected by the disaster, so many people from all over the world come to Aceh to provide humanitarian aid. At that time the world has started to like coffee globally so they bring a new culture of coffee.
Also read: HISTORY OF COFFE
Previously, the people of Aceh already know coffee. For coffee-growing areas, there are many coffee shops in Aceh but still limited to adult males (at least students) and more in the township. After 2004 the world coffee culture is getting “booming” in Aceh, both day and night, the various layers of Aceh people fill the coffee shops to be invited to drink coffee. Unlimited from the old to the young, male or female, poor or rich, all mingling without barriers.
If there are criteria for the number of coffee shops in certain area size then it can be ascertained that Banda Aceh (the capital of Aceh province) will enter the world record (beating Paris though). Even if there is a calculation of the number of people to the coffee shop per day the winner must be the people of Aceh (beat Italy certainly). After the Tsunami, the Aceh conflict ended with peace talks causing freedom to return after years of conflict.
Also read: AFTER THE REVOLUTION ENDED
Coffee is a miraculous drink, at least for the tongue of Aceh (and or affected), because it can change according to place. Rumors circulated among the wives about husbands who do not want to drink coffee at home, even though the coffee powder is the same as in the stall is proven to be valid. Like the status quo, the reason for the compact husband, that coffee at home is not as good as in a coffee shop.
In the past, people only knew black coffee, even though there was only milk or sugar mixture. The way the presentation is simple, urban people not only regard coffee as a necessity but also with a lifestyle. In fact, now in Aceh has mushroomed premium coffee shops.
Even so, enjoying Aceh’s coffee not only enjoys the taste but also the cultural traditions. In Aceh, coffee shops gather, meet and discuss topics. For the people of Aceh, visiting coffee shops is an integral part of daily activities. There they socialize and gather while enjoying coffee. They come to enjoy coffee, as a place to meet friends or business associates, or just simply unwind. “All problems can be finished in the coffee shop”, so the popular proverb in Aceh.
Perhaps coffee was originally introduced and planted by the Dutch in the colonial period, but later on, coffee developed and blended in the culture of Aceh so that now becomes part of the way and living life of people living in Aceh.
Translate From: Asal Muasal Budaya Kopi di Aceh
- CUMBOK WAR, A SOCIAL REVOLUTION IN ACEH (1946-1947); 8 April 2017;
- CIVILIZATION WITHOUT WRITING; 13 April 2017;
- ACEH THE FIRST SOVEREIGN COUNTRY TO RECOGNIZING THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE NETHERLANDS; 27 April 2017;
- VISITING THE EXHIBITION ACEH TOMBSTONE AS AN ISLAMIC CULTURAL HERITAGE IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA; 16 May 2017;
- DUTCH RAID OPERATION AGAINST CUT MEUTIA (1910); 20 May 2017;
- SAMUDERA PASAI AS THE FIRST ISLAMIC KINGDOM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA; 6 June 2017;
- ISLAMIC SHARIAH WHO IS AFRAID, A CASE STUDY IN ACEH; 13 June 2017;
- ACEH WOMEN FULL POWER; 13 June 2017;
- DUSK IN MALACCA; 4 July 2017;
- GOLD, INFIDELS, AND DEATH; 10 July 2017;
- MANTE THE LOST PYGMY TRIBE; 13 July 2017;
- HOW TO TELL HISTORY; 14 August 2017;
- THE ORIGIN OF THE COFFEE CULTURE IN ACEH; 19 August 2017;
- THE UNTOLD STORY ABOUT HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDONESIA IN ACEH PROVINCE; 28 September 2017;
- WHEN CRITICISM IS FORBIDDEN; 14 October 2017;
- EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR ACEH; 5 November 2017;
- PEUCUT KHERKOFF, ACEH-DUTCH WAR MONUMENT; 12 November 2017;
- THE PRICE OF FREEDOM; 5 December 2017;
- ACEH CRAZY OR ACEH PUNGO; 25 February 2018;