Most coffee grown in the region of Southeast Asia usually have the same characteristics. These include Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India. Coffee from all of these places are known to be full-bodied, gentle acidity, with a long aftertaste you can feel at the back of your throat. However, Indonesian coffee always has that earthy flavour. It could be too much and too strong for the people who like their coffee mellow and gentle, but it will really suit the people who like it strong, but still fruity and sweet.
Agriculture in Indonesia
Indonesia is basically an agricultural country. Indonesia exports a lot of agricultural products like chocolate, spices, rice, and coffee. Indonesia is the third largest coffee exporter in the world. Back in the 80s, the government decided to focus more on the export of goods than oil. The economy in Indonesia was shaken after an oil depression, so it’s been decided that it’s more reliable to improve the export of goods rather than oils. Other than coffee, Indonesia also exports numerous of goods to the United States and Canada, such as tobacco, tea, cane sugar, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and palm oil.
The normal densities for coffee trees are usually from 1,100 to 2,000 trees per hectare, which is about 2,5 acres, 107,639 square feet) and most of the coffee trees are grown in shades or shadows of other higher trees. This means lack of sunlight and doesn’t mean it’s bad, it will only let the roots to provide more nutrients for the green coffee beans inside the coffee cherries before they ripe all nice and well for harvesting.
Here are some well-known regions in Indonesia that grow coffee:
Sumatra produces very popular coffee and produces one of the finest high-quality coffee. They’re called Mandheling, Ankola, and Lintong. These coffees are known for their rich and full body, even more, earthy than Java Arabica, can you imagine that?! This could be satisfying for some people and could be disastrous to them who love their coffee mellow and light. Mandheling coffee is usually available for organic certified and fair trade certified.
Even though most farmers use a dry method to process Mandheling coffee, they still use the traditional method, wet hulling. It involves washing dried coffee cherry in a necessary amount of hot water. They do it to give a consistent look of the coffee beans than the usual dry method.
Mandheling coffee is named after its local people who live up North in Sumatra, Mandailing. It can be considered as one of the world’s top specialty coffee. It could grow up to 5,000 feet and the lowest altitude would be about 2,500 feet above the sea level, close to Padang, located in West-Cental of Indonesia.
Some people think that Mandheling can be syrupy sometimes and that it tastes complex and intense, with a little chocolate sweet flavour and earthy undertones hiding there. Surprisingly, a note of liquorice could also make an appearance there!
Sumatra Lintong Coffee
Lintong coffee has a sweet taste with low acidity, an average body, earthy notes and aroma. Lintong coffee is mostly planted and could be found in the North region of Sumatra. While Ankola is a premium high-quality coffee grown near Padang with the altitude from 2,500 feet to 5,000 feet above the sea level.
Java Arabica Coffee
It’s obvious that this coffee is Arabica, not Robusta and the farmers mostly use the wet processing method for this type of coffee. This coffee is grown near a volcano mountain which the local people like to call “Ijen” and usually grown at the elevation around 1,400 meters.
Good Java beans must have that rich, heavy body compared to other coffee beans because it’s the main characteristics of the beans. It has a rustic note with a thrilling finish in a good way, somehow you can feel a bit herbs in it with less acidity. Java Blue could be available sometimes. Java also has that spicy and smoke notes, but it still has its own sweet impression with a smooth finish.
Coffee plantation in Java was established by the Dutch government in th 18th century, back when Indonesia was still part of the Dutch colonials and Java was part of the Dutch East Indies, the largest coffee plantation ever with more than 4,000 hectares. Coffee has been growing in Java since the 17th century until now and has always been exported worldwide.
In order to gain more flavours for the coffee beans, it’s really common in Indonesia to do monsooning. It’s an activity which exposes coffee beans to moisture for a long period of time so that it could change flavours. Every process has its own risks, if it’s sucessful the yield will be awesome and it’s almost not possible to find Old Java coffees. The Arabica coffee from Java is also commonly used in a traditional Yemen Mocha coffee blend called Mocha Java.
The most well-known coffee in Sumatra is Toraja coffee, it’s grown in the Southern Highlands of Sulawesi, it’s a multi-dimensional coffee and has a full and rich body.
An awesome Toraja coffee is balanced in everything. For example, it must have a dark chocolate taste and the undertones of ripe fruit, with low acidity, but somehow still bright and has less body than Sumatran coffees and more earthy than Gayo coffee. A cup of Toraja coffee has been called deep and brooding by the people, with a muted fruit aftertaste.
Sulawesi Toraja coffee is grown at high elevations in Celebes (a former name of Sulawesi in Dutch colonial period), located right in the middle of Indonesia’s Malay archipelago and that’s why it was called Celebes.
Toraja coffee could be processed in wet hulling method, a traditional Indonesia’s method to process coffee beans and is often processed that way. It could also produce green coffee beans that are not yet roasted. Remember, the coffee beans processing method could affect the flavour of coffee beans significantly, and how they’re gonna be roasted.
Papua New Guinea Coffee
Papua New Guinea is technically not an Indonesian coffee, but the western part of it is owned by Indonesia and because of its geography, it almost has the same flavour with Indonesia’s coffee beans and you know what that means? It’s totally worth checking out if you’re trying to find what kind of coffee you like best to have your company in the morning or afternoon.
Best Indonesian Coffee
This statement is honestly very complex, depending on one’s personal taste for coffee. This coffee might work for somebody else, but not might for you, it works the same for them. This coffee might not work for them, but might work for you, it all depends on personal taste. However, Sumatra and Sulawesi coffee are often taking the top two spots up there according to consumer’s demand in the market. I still recommend you to try coffee from different regions so you’ll know which one you enjoy most.
Best Indonesian Coffee Brands
Again, preferences may vary, but Indonesian coffee is commonly known to be spicy, dark and fruity, and each brand has different ways to process and roast the coffee beans, resulting in a different tasting note even though they come from the same region. The most popular coffee chain in Indonesia is Starbucks.
A true high-quality coffee you’d ever have would be the ones you buy fresh roasted from the local roaster, or if it’s a specialty coffee shop that you visit. Remember, coffee is always as its best when it’s fresh rather than after the coffee has been roasted for weeks or months.
Starbucks in Indonesia
Starbucks took its game to the next level, there are a bunch of Starbucks Reserve outlets now in Indonesia. It’s more special, it offers specialty coffee and the baristas who work there are highly trained and the ones who already have a lot of experiences.