My Conversation With Johan Kwe

In this episode I sit down with Johan Kwe who is the wet mill manager for Simalem Coffee & Tea and also the owner of 3 Beans Coffee.

Johan has a front-row seat to what impacts smallholder coffee producers in Sumatra, Indonesia and is working to improve their ability to produce high quality coffee. I joined him at Taman Simalem Resort that overlooks beautiful Lake Toba in the Karo regency of Sumatra.

If you listen closely, in parts of the interview you can hear a troop of Siamang (black gibbons) in the background. Black gibbons are an endangered ape native to Indonesia.

The full audio and transcript is available or you can watch the interview on my YouTube channel:

The links below will take you directly to the chapter in YouTube:

0:00 Intro
0:42 Who is Johan Kwe?
2:16 Collecting cherries from nearby farmers
6:10 How direct is direct trade?
9:45 “Middlemen” shouldn’t be a dirty word
12:38 The story of Simalem Specialty Coffee
16:19 First, master the basics
17:37 Product portfolio development at the mill level
20:34 Experimental lots (product differentiation)
22:10 How much coffee does Simalem process?
24:03 Yeast cultures for coffee culture
27:41 Increasing quality for product differentiation and increased product value
29:44 Solutions to prevent coffee farmers transitioning out of coffee
31:08 Producer education is part of the solution
36:03 Coffee production as a business
40:08 Producers roasting their own coffee

Michael C. Wright

Michael is an American expat living in Southeast Asia where he writes about many things coffee-related. A roaster by trade, Michael is also a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management.