In the Mountains of Bali

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23 August 2017

Emporio’s Simon Maguire is telling me about cats poo-ing out coffee beans. I think he’s joking ... 

I can be pretty gullible. But a quick Wiki-search reveals that Civet cats, or Kopi Luwak, really are farmed in Indonesia to ingest and expel coffee beans. Fetching huge prices, the coffee produced from these beans (which are washed before being roasted, ground and brewed in the usual manner) is highly sought after.

Apparently, it’s all about the intestinal process. The coffee is smoother and mellower, and the cats (looking more like creepy ferrets or possums) are handy in that they only eat ripe beans. The yuck factor continues though. Traditionally, beans were only collected from wild cats. Now, ‘battery-cats’ are the norm—the animals are force-fed coffee cherries, often in terrible conditions.

Simon is recently back from a family holiday in Bali, where he visited an organic coffee plantation. I’m relieved to hear he avoided one that relies on cruelty and exploitation. The Maguires instead chose to experience beautiful Mundak Coffee, a day trip from Ubud.

A relatively small plantation, Mundak is a collaboration between local and European owners.  It grows 70% Arabica, 30% Robusta but some trees are robusta root stock with Arabica grafted on. The total output per season is 1500kg of processed beans with most of the coffee exported to Belgium. Mundak is clearly proud of its ethical and sustainable practices, with a percentage of profits from its coffee sales and boutique hotel going into the Mundak Foundation.

Set on five hectares, the working plantation has its own health spa and resort including an award-winning infinity pool, which Simon describes as stunning. As well as coffee, Mundak grows vanilla pods and hydrangeas. Simon’s guide for the day, Jaya, was invited to join the family for lunch where Simon discovered Jaya’s own family had been involved with the plantation for at least two generations.

For Simon, the visit was his first time seeing coffee in its natural state. He enjoyed the scale of Mundak, and its back to basic style of producing coffee; still hands-on and hand-done.

Although the setting and climate may be about as far as you can get from Wellington in July, perhaps there was still some familiarity to how we do things at Emporio.

Image: Simon picking coffee cherries at Mundak