The Jewel of Gayo

By: Dana Foster

We first were introduced to Permata Gayo Coopeartive (PGC) in 2009. Now, over a decade later, we continue to be impressed by their organization, innovation, community programs and delicious, unique coffee. Permata Gayo’s territory covers multiple villages in the Bener Meriah regency of the Gayo Highlands of northern Aceh, however the co-op’s coffee manager Armia personally identified eleven villages whose profiles fit the Atlas spec. He and his team build each lot using coffees from any combination of these villages, and the results have been remarkably consistent. In addition to the co-op’s focus on quality, Permata Gayo has actively promoted the preservation of Gayonese heritage by using some of the Fair Trade social premiums to fund a cultural school where children of producers learn traditional song and dance. The Fair Trade premium is also used to distribute rice, palm oil, and sugar to its members during the off season as well as train members on composting.

In 2018, Armia unveiled his completed state-of-the-art wet and dry mill, named Junggele, which he rents to the cooperative. This facility was designed for the seven top performing villages (in terms of quality) and is redolent of a Central American centralized wet mill. Fifty percent of the coffee is fully washed, and they are also experimenting with honey processed coffees, and traditional wet hulled methods. Additionally, PGC started a youth council, comprised of 50 young professionals (all under twenty-five). They are mostly employed at Junggele and manage processing from cherry to export. They also hold administrative positions, like accounting duties and quality control. Many members from the youth council had the opportunity to travel to both Singapore and Bangkok this past year for coffee related events.

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