There’s not much I won’t do for a cup of coffee, but when I looked at the map of northern Bali to find the location of the Bali Beans Roastery, I saw Plaga nestled close to Bedugul; it’s nothing, about the width of a finger on the map. So I thought that it would be a great side-trip whilst staying up in Bedugul – also in the north.
Google maps had other ideas though –
“Over one hour??!! But it’s just there!” I gasped at my phone.
The road snaked back down the mountain towards Ubud, before doubling back halfway up to Kintamani. How silly of me not to realise. Still, a three-hour round trip is not out of the question when good coffee is involved!
Bali Beans Coffee Roastery
I had seen the fresh and exciting looking Bali Beans Roastery on Instagram and was interested to learn more about their Crop to Cup philosophy. I had messaged Ayu about my visit and when I pulled up to the building, she was there to greet me with a big smile. The Roastery sits by the side of the road, incongruous in such simple and natural surroundings, the smart brick building is reminiscent of a trendy Shoreditch coffee house. Even without the logo – which Ayu tells me she has yet to put up – it’s pretty easy to spot.
Ayu shows me into the coffee shop and prepares me a coffee straight away (no messing about! A girl after my own heart!), apologising that her barista has not yet arrived so the coffee might not be perfect (it is), whilst she tells me about Bali Beans.
Bali Beans – A Family Business
On the wall sit pictures of her parents in the plantations; they’ve been planting coffee since 1985 and Ayu tells me how, when she was little, she would go straight to the plantations after school so that she could spend time with them and that, between homework assignments, she and her little brother would be tasked with crawling under the coffee plants and collecting the Luwak Coffee.
I enquire again about the supposed magical properties of this famous bean and she explains how civet cats will naturally select the best beans – they are the coffee connoisseurs of the cat world and turn their feline noses up at anything that doesn’t meet their exacting standards – and that the digestion process gives the beans a natural fermentation. She also tells me that, despite the prohibition of caged civet cat farming, that it still takes place today. Of course, unless the cats are wild, they cannot choose the beans for themselves and so one of the main benefits of Luwak Coffee is already lost. Ayu gives me some of their Bali Beans Luwak Coffee to take home. I plan to save it for a special occasion; anything that has gone through such a painstaking process (beans selected by civet cat and then collected by tiny hands) deserves some respect!
Through this explanation, I am starting to understand that the Crop to Cup philosophy runs deep at Bali Beans. Ayu wants to cut out the middle-men so that more of the profits filter back to the farmers. She explains how local and international agents squeeze the producers more and more, waiting until the farmers have no other choice but to get rid of their beans at the lowest prices. Ayu sells direct to the suppliers and they even have their own coffee shop in Canggu – Satu Satu – where they sell their superior coffee at 20-25k – lower than the market average. She also wants Bali Beans to become a destination coffee shop, where weary travellers can stop off on their way to Kintamani and have a proper cup of coffee. She’s even planning to build some guest rooms on the property so that coffee-obsessives can stay on the plantation and take part in the process of harvesting, washing and roasting the beans.
Ayu shows me around the plantation and, in contrast with the bushes growing wildly in Munduk, these are arranged neatly in rows, with tall trees growing in between. Ayu explains that the leaves falling from the tall trees provide natural composting for the soil and also protect the coffee plants so that they don’t need to use any fertilizer. All of their coffee is 100% organic.
The neatly arranged bushes reflect Ayu’s character, very organised and efficient. She tells me she has spent the last 12 years working in Dubai but eventually decided to come back to the family village and start this exciting project.
The barista arrives and introduces himself as Ayu’s little brother, it seems they have the whole family involved in taking the bean from crop to cup, ensuring full control over every step in the process. He prepares me my second coffee – one for the road, and before I head back to Bedugul they invite me back to the official opening in May, when everything will be finished and ready for launch. As I head back along through the breathtaking landscape I am already looking forward to coming back to this little slice of coffee heaven in Plaga!
Link to route from Bedugul: https://goo.gl/maps/k1xQVSMW5hp
Link to route from Ubud: https://goo.gl/maps/REjVZYdUKop