Lay Back for a While in a Green City - Betawi katrok... memang katrok..
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Rabu, 04 Maret 2009
Lay Back for a While in a Green City
The city of Pagar Alam is a seven-hour drive from Palembang, South Sumatra, by way of Prabumulih, Muara Enim and Lahat Regency to Liku Endikat.

The city's slogan, Besemah (Bersih, Sejuk, Aman dan Ramah, Clean, Cool, Safe and Friendly) resounds in our minds, because it really is accurate. The city of Pagar Alam lies in the Bukit Barisan range, with the iconic Gunung Dempo rising 3,159 meters above sea level; at its foot are luxuriant farms and plantations growing tea, coffee, vegetable, fruit and ornamental plants.

All kinds of recreational activities are available here: rafting, trekking, paragliding, cycling, and much more. But if you don't have much time, it's best to first get your fill of exploring the city, so full of greenery and cool, fresh air, which we so rarely find anywhere these days, let alone in a place called a city.

In the early morning, before sunrise, a tea walk is highly recommended. The tea plantations take up a large expanse – 1571 hectares of Pagar Alam's total of 63,336 hectares. Though it's not yet light, you can already feel the bustle of the tea pickers in action. They work for Pagar Alam's only tea factory, PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) VII, which was founded in 1929 as the Dutch company NV Lanbouw Maatschappij.

You'll probably want a heavy jacket as you walk through the tea plantation – the morning temperatures can be 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, with occasional strong winds – but you'll want to take it off later to enjoy the warmth of the sun as it gradually reveals the lovely, wavy green carpet below you. The tea plantation's location ensures that it always gets plenty of morning sun, and this gives the tea a fine special aroma. Following the tea walk, spare a bit of time for a mini-course on how tea from Pagar Alam has become one of Indonesia's important commodities.

Agus the foremanThe tea pickers at Pagar Alam are always very pleased to see visitors at the plantation. Though it was their busiest time, in the middle of an excellent harvest, they still flashed us smiles and didn't mind taking the time to tell us about their work.

One such was Agus, the foreman of a group of tea pickers. He was working the second shift, from 8 AM to 2 PM. He's responsible for supervising his crew as they pick the tea leaves, some with machines and some with scissors.

"The crews spread out throughout the plantation, and each crew has to pick 650 kg," he told us, wiping the sweat from his dark brow.

Though the tea is not weighed in the field, Agus can estimate the weight when his crew starts to pick the tea leaves to be delivered to PTPN VII. Once the leaves have been weighed and met the target, Agus and his team can take a break and go home. The tea pickers at Pagar Alam, who are mostly immigrants from Java, are not only one of the attractions of Pagar Alam but also the main key to the success of this agribusiness/agroindustry company based in Bandar Lampung.

Immediately after the tea is collected, it is sorted, including through leaf analysis, then taken to a wilting room, where the tea is kept at 28 to 33 degrees Celsius for 16 to 18 hours. The production process at the plant starts every morning at 3; today's production will be processed the next day.

Following the wilting process is the shredding stage, when the tea is oxidized or fermented for 120 to 130 minutes. According to Chairil Nursyiwan, a processing technical supervisor, "The oxidation mustn't be longer than 130 minutes, to preserve the aroma."

Tea is processed in several stages before it is released to the market.

The next step is drying, for 17 to 22 minutes, using oil palm shells as the fuel. Why? "They're the cheapest!" Pak Chairil explains. The dried tea is then sent to the sorting room to be graded by quality based on specific gravity and particle size.

The tea produced by PTPN VII under the "Teh Gunung Dempo" label is semi-orthodox black tea made using a Rotorvane processing system. The production capacity is 45 tons of wet leaves, which is processed into 10 tons of dry tea per day.

The dry tea is then packed and sent to the auction center in Jakarta. The best quality is the black variety, which is marketed nationally and is used as raw material by many of Indonesia's leading brands of tea. Teh Gunung Dempo is also exported to various countries, including Japan, the United States and the Middle East.

Getting to Palembang
Garuda Indonesia flies there 49 times per week.

Getting to Pagar Alam
Seven hours by bus. Buses run from Palembang, Prabumulih, Muara Enim, and Lahat; also from outside the province, such as from Bengkulu, Lampung and even Yogyakarta.
The local government is currently building an airfield to facilitate access.

Many villas, hotels and guest houses are easy to find, as are places to eat.

Tea is processed in several stages before it is released to the market.Activities
Tea walk, climbing Gunung Dempo, rafting on the Lematang Indah river, camping, trekking in the Bamboo Forest or to the many waterfalls (including Cughup Embun and Cughup Tuju Kenangan), and visiting the megaliths in several locations, including statues of prehistoric humans, people with coiling snakes, etc.

Cycling, paragliding, and off-road adventures are the most challenging, but also the most exciting.

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posted by Sinopi at 01.55 | Permalink |