When the school holiday arrives, one of the things the children – and their parents – always want to do is to go on vacation to refresh their mind, seeing new places, before returning back to their daily activities. However, in this holiday season our vacation time was about to cut short, because at the same time the kids must sign up and register to their new school. So, the idea was to find a place where we can reach in just a short trip, and still can bring a new experience to the kids & enjoy our time. After browsing few options, Ijen mountain slopes was the choice, again. This time, it was Sempol district, Bondowoso, at the west side of Mount Ijen, where a state-owned coffee plantation offers an agrotourism package. So, it would be a relax, a bit of trekking time around a coffee – and yes they actually have strawberry too – plantation..
It’s going to be a 5-6 hours of driving. After studying the map, I decided to go via Situbondo. The first reason was because I am more familiar with the roadways on the north coast line of East Java, not too familiar with the Jember-Bondowoso route. Just in case we were slow & late – and that was exactly the case – I wouldn’t be too much struggling looking for the route to the place. Route signs could be an issue in remote locations – and again, that was exactly the case – and just like so many of my previous trips this was my first time trip to the place. The second reason was because the Sukosari-Sempol route is sited between Situbondo and Bondowoso. Thus, at least as it seemed on the map, the distance via Jember route would be farther compared to Situbondo route..
And then, off we go..
The journey was a smooth one up until Situbondo, even though we started a little late. Driving to a new place where I was not too familiar with the route, I would prefer to find my way during the daylight. But this time it wasn’t the case. It was already late & dark. The difficulty increased as we went farther deep, out of the main road, there was no signs at all that can lead us to our destination. The only direction I had was a text message from the homestay clerk listing the areas & landmarks that I would – or to be more precise, need to – pass through along the road to the location of the plantation.
After over 40km off the main road, past the small road in the midst of the forest on the slopes of the mountain where there’s no cellphone signal and seven times of stop-and-ask-the-residents-for-the-correct-route along the road, we finally reached the gate of the coffee plantation. Cool and fresh mountain air immediately grabbed. And I just realized, the sky was very clear. Star-studded. All fatigue suddenly vanished when we looked onto the stars-filled sky. No mist or fog, no big-cities-pollution-smog blocking our view to the sky..
The Arabica Homestay where we stayed is owned and managed by PTP XII, a state-owned company who runs the 3,000+ hectares coffee plantation and also the coffee beans processing plant that is located immediately adjacent to the homestay. The whole property is located at Sempol district, Bondowoso, adjacent to Kalisat village where most of the villagers work for the plantation as well. In the morning, have your breakfast at the back porch and you will have the stunning view of Ijen mountain slopes right before you with the coffee drying process activities at the foreground where the workers laying down the coffee beans after the first phase of the peeling process, to let them dried out under the sun.
The next morning, initially, we were thinking of taking the coffee picking tour around the coffee plantation which will cost IDR 25,000 per person. But Mbak Fury, the homestay clerk, told us that it was not the harvesting season yet, so we decided to do the strawberry garden tour then. Along the way to the strawberry garden, we passed through the neat & tidy Kalisat village and a part of the coffee plantation as well. So it turned out not so bad, we walked along & around the coffee plantation after all 🙂
“We harvest the strawberry twice a week, on tuesday and friday morning…”, Pak Wanto, one of the foreman of the strawberry garden. We just missed it. Pak Wanto continued while escorting us around the plantation, “There are two types of strawberry that we plant here: California and Sweet Charlie. Both types are sweeter here compared to the similar types planted in Batu..”, he referred to other region in East Java that’s also famous for its strawberry plantation. Anyway, we might missed the harvest time in the morning, but they always left some for the ‘one day peasant’ like us to try harvesting them ourselves. Obviously the kids didn’t want to miss such opportunity and started immediately. Harvesting or not, every one of us got one small box of strawberry to bring home with us. Horraaay.. 😀
The next tour, later in the afternoon, was the coffee beans processing plant tour. Started at the place where the coffee beans that have been harvested during the day arrive at the plant, washing process, first phase peeling, drying process under the sun, and then goes to the milo for the next drying & second phase of peeling process. All processes were thoroughly explained by Pak Untung, one of the tour guide from Arabica Homestay. The last process before delivery is the QA/QC process. Lines of workers – most of them are women – with desk full of coffee beans in front of them, skillfully sorting out the beans and separating the defects. A long list of renowned coffee brands who have been the clients of this plant was hanging on the wall, showing to the guest about the high quality of the product of this plantation. They also have a small lab where they regularly do the taste test of their coffee beans..
There you go. What a way to spend a short vacation. And after only one day of coffee plantation tour, I have already become a master in coffee processing. Well, sort of.. 😀
- Want to visit this place? Check out the information at http://www.ijenplateau.com/accommodation/arabica-homestay
- Start your trip to this place as early morning as possible
- Make sure you have a detail direction from the homestay on how to get there. Remember: no signs along the way 😀