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Coffeehouse as Institution for

Culture and Tourism in Gayo



Coffee has become one of the most

important commodities in Indonesia. It
ranked fifth in terms of export value of
estate crop commodities (Ministry of
Agriculture, 2015).

Gayo Red Cherry Coffee

Photo by Khalisudin


Despite being
the fourth
largest coffee
per capita is
still low
(ICO, 2016)

One of the biggest coffee

producing provinces in
Indonesia is Aceh. It
produced 7.83% of the
country’s 632,460 tons
of coffee production in
2015. Around 91.50 %
of the province’s coffee
production is produced
in the Gayo highlands
area which comprises
Aceh Tengah, Bener
Meriah, and Gayo Lues
regencies (Ministry of
Agriculture, 2015).

Gayo Green Bean

Photo by Yoppie Pieter, 2013


Gayo is a tribe in the

highlands region of Aceh
Province which reside in the
side of Bukit Barisan
mountain range and a crater
lake called Lut Tawar. As a
mountainous area with
altitude of 600-1,800 meters
above sea level, Gayo
highlands has been well-
known worldwide for its
high quality coffee.

Gayo Highlands Region

Photos by Yoppie Pieter, 2013


Propelled mainly by coffee commodity, Takéngën as the main city for Gayo
people has experienced rapid change in the past fifty or so years which
affects its architectural face.

Traditional Gayo houses spirit was centered on paddy farming, rituals,

gender boundaries, and local wooden materials.


The contemporary Gayo houses have developed based on practical

activity as it is changed to coffee farming, gender generalization, and
modern materials.

Photos by Yoppie Pieter, 2013




 During the 1930s, the Dutch established tea and coffee

estates north of the main town of Takéngën in an effort to
transform Gayo highlands into an agricultural export
 After 1945, farmers began to carve the estates into
smallholder coffee farms, and their numbers have risen
steadily ever since.
 The attractiveness of coffee growing increased throughout
the 1960s, and particularly by the late 1970s.
 Farmers moved into the uncultivated forest areas to the
north and west of Takéngën to open coffee farms, and
expanded the number of hectares harvested from 17,000 in
1971 to 31,000 in 1984 (Bowen, 1988).

Even though quality coffee has been one of the biggest attractions for
investors and tourists to come to Gayo highlands, coffee culture in Gayo is
not as well-known as their coffee itself.
Photo copyright of Ketiara


Coffee culture refers to ideas, practices,

technology, meanings, and associations
regarding coffee (Tucker, 2011).

This article aims to show how coffee as an

important commodity in Gayo highlands can
shape a certain coffee culture, thus helping
preserve Gayo cultural heritage and promote
cultural tourism in the highlands through
the design of coffeehouses.

In other words....

The design of a coffeehouse may preserve Gayo

culture when both philosophical and physical
elements of traditional Gayo architecture are being
implemented in it.

The design of a coffeehouse may also promote

cultural tourism in the highlands when a
coffehouse design is possessing Gayo cultural


Around the world, coffeehouses have emerged as

social meeting places, or third places for meeting
away from home and work (Boniface, 2003).

There are various names referring to social

institution which serves coffee, such as coffee
houses, coffee shops, coffee bars and cafés.
Each of these types of establishments has differing
levels of informality (Boniface, 2003) in settings
where coffee and food are served.

The Situation of Current Coffeehouse Design in Gayo Highlands

Interior of ARB Coffee in Central Aceh

Photos by Lintas Gayo, 2016


The Situation of Current Coffeehouse Design in Gayo Highlands

Exterior of ARB Coffee in Central Aceh

Photos by Lintas Gayo, 2016

The Situation of Current Coffeehouse Design in Gayo Highlands

Teras Studio Coffee in Gayo Lues

Photos by Lintas Gayo, 2016


The Situation of Current Coffeehouse Design in Gayo Highlands

Seladang – A Coffeehouse in the Middle of Coffee Farm in Bener Meriah

Photos by Khalisuddin, 2016

The Situation of Current Coffeehouse Design in Gayo Highlands

Seladang – Learning Coffee Bean as Part of Coffee Tourism in Bener Meriah

Photos by Maulana, 2016


The Gayo Traditional Architecture

The discussion of traditional Gayo house cannot be separated

from the whole traditional Gayo architecture which is divided into
three building types based on its function. The three building
types are :

1. Place of worship
It appears in the form of buildings, namely mësëgit (masjid),
mërsah (masjid in a simpler form specifically for men), and
döyah (similar to mërsah, reserved for women).
2. Building for storage
It had a primary function of storing paddy grain. There were
three types of traditional storage buildings according to its
size, namely bëranang, manah and këben.
3. Dwelling house
Dwelling house in local term is called umah. The traditional
Gayo house is a longhouse that served as home to several
families belonged to the same paternal lineage living under
one roof. Currently, there is only one authentic traditional
house of Gayo Lut survives.


The Gayo Traditional House


Traditional Gayo house was an elevated house in which the phrase "entah ku
atas" which means "please come upstairs" was commonly used to invite
someone into the house (by going up to the elevated floor) as a form of
hospitality . The floor (tele) of the house was raised on posts 2 to 2.5 m above
the ground to create a section under the house (këlétén).

Currently, when the type of house has been turned into a ground-level single
house, the same phrase is still often used to invite someone up onto pëpantarën.


Each room had a fireplace (dapōr këlélékën) which was

fueled by firewood or pine seed (galih) and used for
keeping the body warm (bëdiang, muniru).

Decorative elements of traditional Gayo houses were

woodcarvings inspired by nature. Gayo art is famous for its
spiral-shaped carving, i.e. the kërawang.


The Adoption of Gayo Traditional

Dwelling House Elements
in Coffehouse Design

Nowadays, pëpantarën is a kind of raised surface for seating

and is generally found in the contemporary family room or
kitchen. In this case, it can be said that the existence of
pëpantarën is a transformation of an elevated traditional Gayo
house and a symbol of hospitality as well as to accommodate
social activity.

1 Gayo coffeehouses can use pëpantarën as part of their

seating area.


Gayo coffeehouses can implement this feature by creating male- and

female-only spaces in addition to the common area which is accessible
for both gender. Such design will represent Gayo ëdët of sumang
(appropriateness) and këmél (such an embarrassment). Sumang
appeared in the form of traditional rule on how to interact between
men and women.

The use of kërawang as contemporary building ornament in

Takéngën is very rare except in government buildings.

3 Kërawang can be used for the design of Gayo

coffeehouses as decorative elements.


Coffeehouses in Gayo
highlands can use
fireplace which adapted
traditional concept of
dapōr këlélékën to make
the occupants feel warm
and comfortable during
cold days as
traditionally called
bëdiang or muniru.

4 Gayo traditional activity

of muniru
Photos by WRB Gayo, 2011

In the contemporary Gayo society, male family

members are no longer making mërsah as their
second home. This situation, and the findings that
one of the best moments for family communication
happens when the family has finished praying
together at home, has led to the emergence of the
need for a special room for worship in the house to
accommodate both activities.

As Gayo ëdët is strongly tied to Islamic law, it is

also important for Gayo coffeehouses to provide
space for offering ṣalah.