Higher Grounds Coffee

Sumatra Permata Gayo

Dark chocolate, deep grape, caramel.

The rich earthy character of a classic Sumatran coffee is beautifully balanced with deep grape, caramel, and peach notes. A hint of black pepper and a touch of pineapple lend complexity. Sweet acidity paired with juicy body, and dark chocolate showing up in the finish. Brew, drink, repeat.

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Permata Gayo Cooperative
Smallholder producers
Semi-Washed Process

Meet Smallholder producers

In 2006, coffee farmers in the Bener Meriah district formed Permata Gayo Cooperative. Their goal was to guarantee a greater level of quality and traceability for their coffees, and ultimately receive higher premiums as a result. Where once they sent their harvest from Aceh to the port of Belawan to be processed, they are now able to take them from cherry to final export right in their own facilities. This added control over each step of the process enables them to continually improve their quality while facilitating communication and direct sales.

Each year, Permata Gayo members and staff labor to strengthen internal structures and quality control. 36 villages with distinct processing centers operate through the co-op, offering ongoing challenges in consistency. However, member farmers stay well informed about market expectations, and enjoy knowing that those further down the value chain appreciate their efforts and product.

Aceh, Indonesia

Though the Indonesian island of Java had already made a name for itself in the coffee world, Sumatra’s Arabica production only began in the 1700s under Dutch colonialism. The Aceh region to the northern end of the island around Lake Tawar was the first to begin cultivating coffee, and has become famous for the complex profile of fruit, earth, and wood notes, brought about largely from their traditional wet hulling process called “gilling basah.”

Until relatively recently, Sumatran coffees were not sold by region, but marketed under the rather generic label of “Mandheling” However, as quality has improved, distinctive characteristics are bringing regions into the spotlight. The forested Aceh region, which includes the areas of Takengon and Bener Mariah, is one of these. Farmers here are proud of their coffee-growing heritage, and the more they understand the direct correlation between quality coffee and direct premiums, the more sustainable will be their success.

Traverse City, MI

Higher Grounds Coffee

It all started with a trip to Mexico. Owner and co-founder, Chris Treter, was living and working among coffee farmers at the Maya Vinic cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico as part of a post-graduate internship in 2001. For the farmers, poverty and a lack of access to basic resources such as education and water were simply a way of life. As he neared the end of his internship, Chris asked his farmer friend, Jose Perez Vazquez, “How can we keep helping you?”

“You could sell our coffee,” said José.

And that’s exactly what Chris did. From selling Maya Vinic Co-op’s coffee at his local farmers’ market, Higher Grounds grew. Eventually they also sought out coffee from other sources and joined forces with a handful of other roasters to form an importing cooperative, Cooperative Coffees. Every trade relationship they have is modeled after that first one, and every year they still purchase from Maya Vinic. Furthermore, Higher Grounds Coffee donates 1% of their sales to On the Ground, their partner nonprofit. On the Ground empowers coffee farming communities through gender and social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic security.


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