Indonesian Coffee From Different Regions
People wait for crops in Indonesia because it’s been our favourite coffee for years. Indonesia is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world and Indonesia has different types of coffee in every island or region, such as Sulawesi, Flores, Java, East Timor, and Bali. Coffee from Indonesia is very popular and when people hear the word coffee, they would automatically think of Indonesia.
The taste notes of Indonesian coffee is usually very complex, syrupy with a nice amount of acidity and dense because of the land where the coffee is planted, it makes the coffee very good for dark roasting. Besides of the land, it’s also caused by a traditional processing method in Indonesia called wet hulling or ‘giling basah’. The semi-washed method is also known for wet hulling. The wet hulling method is commonly used in Indonesia rather than any other processing method like natural or wet method.
Wet hulling: the coffee cherry will be dried for a short amount of time before being washed and before the coffee cherries will be removed, this will impart some kind of flavour from the pulp, fruit to the bean.
Indonesia contains thousand of islands. There will not be enough time to elaborate all of them. Instead, we’re going to focus on the islands that have more population and some of the biggest islands in Indonesia that truly produce good coffee. The ones that produce high-quality Arabica coffee. We’re also going to discuss times of harvest and arrival. Although, it may not be truly accurate because the average time varies depending on the climate and surprisingly, political issues.
We’re going to discuss island by island in details. Ready to sail? Hop in!
We’re going to discuss the most well-known island that produces coffee up to 75% most of the time, so Sumatra will be the first island we’ll discuss.
Mandheling coffee is mostly produced around Lake Toba, one of the deepest lakes the world ever had. It is also named after one of the local population in Sumatra, which has the texture of syrupy aftertaste, a little spicy, and complex. Lintong is in the southwest part of Lake Toba and known for its earthy profile. Gayo is located in the northernmost region in Aceh, it’s also known as a mountain or Gayo mountain. It is grown near Lake Tawar which is considered to be the place which produces the cleanest coffee, less complex than any others, with less body like the usual Gayo and usually with more acidity. Most coffee in Indonesia is processed with the wet hulling method, rather than natural method or washed method. Wet hulling is Indonesia’s traditional method of processing coffee. The result of the wet hulling method is usually more complex, but still juicy and has that fruity flavours.
As we discussed above, not all regions in Sumatra could produce high-quality coffee like Mandheling, Lintong, and Aceh Gayo. They’re located in Northern Sumatra.
The second region that we’ll discuss is Java. Home to the capital of Indonesia, the busy Jakarta. Java has a lot of history about coffee and could be the grandfather of all regions which means Java could be the oldest region to produce coffee in the world. It was back in 1699 when the Dutch have Indonesia and they brought the coffee plant to Java to plant them, because the land in Indonesia is magical, as if everything could be planted there and would grow into something. Since then, they’ve been producing coffee. It’s also one of the reasons why Java is the synonym of coffee and people all over the world say Java for coffee. Although there was an incident one time when the plants were ruined by rust leaf, a fungus which targets coffee plants in around 1880s.
The incident made coffee farmers move to higher lands to plant coffee which little did they know, higher altitude makes the coffee production even better. Higher grown = higher quality. Most of the coffee planted in Java island is owned by the Government. However, for the past few years, smallholders coffee farmers and roasters are rising and start running a coffee industry for consumers and at first, they use the traditional sales marketing strategy by selling the coffee door to door, try to offer the nearby coffee shops to buy coffee beans from them and they really start growing now!
The coffee from Java is mostly processed with the wet hulling method, resulting the coffee to taste less acidic, syrupy body and complex profile similar with the Sumatran coffee. The coffee from these two islands could almost have no difference, but they are! Java coffee tends to be cleaner and sweeter, while Sumatran coffee tends to be more spicy and earthy.
Arrival: August – September
Season: May – November
Sulawesi is the home to some of the highest grown coffee in Indonesia and used to be known as Celebes. Most coffee that’s planted in Sulawesi island is planted in the Southern part of Sulawesi, mostly in the region of Toraja, bisected by the Sesean Mountains. According to the history, the coffee grown on the East side of the mountain will end up in Minanga’s market town. The coffee grown on the Westside will end up in Sapan. Don’t worry! The Sulawesi coffee we get is always the best crop from both sides of the mountains. Some people also called it the “Sapan-Minanga”, a combination of both of them.
The coffee is mostly known for its cleanest, smoothest coffee in Indonesia (which mostly have a heavy body and earthy taste notes, rather than clean and smooth taste notes). This is caused by the extremely high planted and grown coffee up to 2,000 masl. If you’re a huge fan of coffee with a syrupy body that’s not way too strong and low acidity, you might like this coffee. This coffee could also stand for dark roasting to Vienna roasting too, but you can still feel the original taste of it.
Arrival: August – September
Season: May – October
I’m sure most of you must have heard about Bali, Indonesia’s paradise, the hidden jewel of Indonesia, the leisure island and whichever you wanna call it. Most coffee in Bali and probably almost all good coffee in Bali is produced in Kintamani Highlands, between the Batukaru and Agung volcanoes.
Batukaru and Agung volcanoes are active volcanoes and this means they keep the soil fresh with super fertile volcanic ash, like a boon for coffee plants. The farming structure of the local farmers in Bali is known as “Sabuk Abian”.
Bali is also one of the most cultured islands in Indonesia, most of the locals’ religion is Hindu and they believe in the philosophy “Tri Hita Karana” that teaches that in this world, there are three types of happiness. Those would be the harmony with God, harmony with other people, and harmony with the environment. This made Bali become the forefront for Organic and Fairtrade practices in Indonesia.
There is also a conventional or non-organic lot from Bali as the Organic version that is currently unavailable for some time. They also use the traditional processing method, wet-hulling, even though sometimes they use fully washed method or natural processing method.
The characteristics of coffee from Bali are usually sweet, chocolaty aftertaste (think about the milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate) also have a bit of higher acidity than the coffee from the other islands, but the acidity is nice, think of orange and citrus acidity.
5. East Timor
Season: June – September
This region is called East Timor for a political reason back in 2002, only half of the island conquered the independence from Indonesia, which still controls the west part. It’s commonly called as Timor only. Even though this region used to be a part of Indonesia and half of it is owned by Indonesia, but technically it’s not Indonesian coffee. It’s like Papua New Guinea which is also separated from Indonesia.
I hope including Timor in this article won’t confuse people. Still tho! The history of this island could be written for pages! But we’ll just discuss the coffee of Timor now. They’ve been producing coffee almost as long as Java, but also after an epidemic coffee leaf rust, a new hybrid has been born, it’s called Hibrido de Timor.
Farmers in Timor don’t use the wet hulling method. Instead of that, they usefully washed method. Normally, fully washed method will make the coffee taste cleaner with a bit more crisp profile. A light roasting profile will pretty much suit Timor’s coffee, for its unique characteristics will fade if it goes into darker roasts. This type of coffee will suit people who love Indonesia’s body in coffee, but with a cleaner aftertaste.
Season: May – October
The island was discovered by the Portuguese who simply named the island Flowers in their native tongue or pronunciation, it is named for its beautiful local plants and they have Komodo Dragon in the island. It’s one of many attractions for tourists to come visit the island. With all of the beauty Flores has, it also has one of the best coffee in the world. They produce specialty coffee and very popular lately.
Almost all of the Arabica coffee production in Flores are produced in Bajawa and the farmers around the area are organised into 12 different coops. They all work amazingly together to bring coffee to the market, and so on! They still use the wet hulling method in Flores and the characteristics of Flores coffee are super smooth with a rich body. Pretty much the same with Balinese coffee, but Flores is more into cocoa when Bali’s more into a few dark chocolate profiles, a bit common to Sumatran coffee.
7. Papua New Guinea
Season: April – September
Papua New Guinea has the same situation with Timor. It used to be a part of Indonesia, but not anymore and it gained independence from Australia in 1975. However, the western part of it is still governed by Indonesia and the name of the island is just simply called Papua. The one who introduced coffee to that island is the British colonial around 1890, but they didn’t export any of the coffee until the mid of the 1900s.
The coffee production in PNG is under two parties, large estates like Kimel Estate and other smallholders who have their own coffee industries. Only for the past few years, the smallholders started to export more coffee and raise the competition to the next level. More competition, more high-quality coffee and all farmers will be more competitive than before. Everyone set the standards up high and even higher. In the 2016 National Cupping Competition, Timuza coop from Flores took the first place! Like the coffee from East Timor, PNG coffee is fully washed and the result will be more crisp, cleaner with higher acidity. A medium roast profile will suit this better than darker roasts because it will only make the original flavour fades.