Today, more than 90% of Indonesia’s coffee is grown by smallholders on farms averaging around one hectare . Some of this production is organic and many farmers’ cooperatives and exporters are internationally certified to market organic coffee.
There are more than 20 varieties of Coffea arabica being grown commercially in Indonesia. They fall into six main categories:
- Typica – this is the original cultivar introduced by the Dutch. Much of the Typica was lost in the late 1880s, when coffee leaf rust swept through Indonesia. However, both the Bergandal and Sidikalang varieties of Typica can still be found in Sumatra, especially at higher altitudes.
- Hibrido de Timor (HDT) – This variety, which is also called "Tim Tim", is a natural cross between Arabica and Robusta. This variety originated likely from a single coffee tree planted in 1917–18 or 1926. The HDT was planted in Aceh in 1979.
- Linie S – This is a group of varieties was originally developed in India, from the Bourbon cultivar. The most common are S-288 and S-795, which are found in Lintong, Aceh, Flores and other areas.
- Ethiopian lines – These include Rambung and Abyssinia, which were brought to Java in 1928. Since then, they have been brought to Aceh as well. Another group of Ethiopian varieties found in Sumatra are called "USDA", after an American project that brought them to Indonesia in the 1950s.
- Caturra cultivars: Caturra is a mutation of Bourbon coffee, which originated in Brazil.
- Catimor lines – This cross between arabica and robusta has a reputation for poor flavour. However, there are numerous types of Catimor, including one that farmers have named "Ateng-Jaluk". On-going research in Aceh has revealed locally adapted Catimor varieties with excellent cup characteristics.
Sumatra (Mandheling, Lintong and Gayo)
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Coffee from this western-most island in Indonesia is intriguing and complex, due to the large number of small-holder producers and the unique "giling basah" (wet hulling) processing technique they use. At the green bean stage, coffee from this area has a distinctive bluish colour, which is attributed to processing method and lack of iron in the soil.
Coffees from Sumatra are known for smooth, sweet body that is balanced and intense. Depending on the region, or blend of regions, the flavours of the land and processing can be very pronounced. Notes of cocoa, tobacco, smoke, earth and cedar wood can show well in the cup. Occasionally, Sumatran coffees can show greater acidity, which balances the body. This acidity takes on tropical fruit notes and sometimes an impression of grapefruit or lime.
Mandheling is a trade name, used for arabica coffee from northern Sumatra. It was derived from the name of the Mandailing people, who produce coffee in the Tapanuli region of Sumatra. Mandheling coffee comes from Northern Sumatra, as well as Aceh.
Lintong coffee is grown in the District of Lintong Nihuta, to the south-west of Lake Toba. This large lake is one of the deepest in the world, at 505 meters. The coffee production area is a high plateau, known for its diversity of tree fern species. This area produces 15,000 to 18,000 tons of arabica per year. A neighbouring region, called Sidikilang, also produces arabica coffee.
Gayo is a region on the hillsides surrounding the town of Takengon and Lake Tawar, at the northern tip of Sumatra, in the region of Aceh. The altitude in the production area averages between 1,110 and 1,600 meters. The coffee is grown by smallholders under shade trees.
Coffee from this region is generally processed at farm-level, using traditional wet methods. Due to the giling basah processing, Gayo Mountain coffee is described as higher toned and lighter bodied than Lintong and Mandheling coffees from further east in Sumatra.
Sulawesi (Toraja, Kalosi, Mamasa and Gowa)
The Indonesian island of Sulawesi, formerly called the Celebes, lies to the north of Flores. The primary region for high altitude Arabica production covers the Toraja highlands, and the district of Enrekang to its south, where coffee is commonly traded through the town of Kalosi, which is a well-known brand of specialty coffee. The regions of Mamasa (to the west of Toraja) and Gowa (further to the south near Makassar), also produce Arabica, although they are less well known.
Sulawesi coffees are clean and sound in the cup. They generally display nutty or warm spice notes, like cinnamon or cardamom. Hints of black pepper are sometimes found. Their sweetness, as with most Indonesian coffees, is closely related to the body of the coffee. The after-taste coats the palate on the finish and is smooth and soft.
Most of Sulawesi's coffee is grown by smallholders, with about 5% coming from seven larger estates. The people of Tana Toraja build distinctively shaped houses and maintain ancient and complex rituals related to death and the afterlife. This respect for tradition is also found in way that small-holders process their coffee. Sulawesi farmers use a unique process called "giling basah" (wet hulling).
West Java was the earliest coffee plantation under the VOC. Today the Paniis coffee planters cooperation in Sumedang can produce 15 tonnes, 2.5 tonnes of them are produced as kopi luwak. Java's arabica coffee production is centred on the Ijen Plateau, at the eastern end of Java, at an altitude of more than 1,400 meters. The coffee is primarily grown on large estates that were built by the Dutch in the 18th century. The five largest estates are Blawan (also spelled Belawan or Blauan), Jampit (or Djampit), Pancoer (or Pancur), Kayumas and Tugosari, and they cover more than 4,000 hectares.
These estates transport ripe cherries quickly to their mills after harvest. The pulp is then fermented and washed off, using the wet process, with rigorous quality control. This results in coffee with good, heavy body and a sweet overall impression. They are sometimes rustic in their flavour profiles, but display a lasting finish. At their best, they are smooth and supple and sometimes have a subtle herbaceous note in the after-taste.
This coffee is prized as one component in the traditional "Mocca Java" blend, which pairs coffee from Yemen and Java. Certain estates age a portion of their coffee for up to five years, normally in large burlap sacks, which are regularly aired, dusted, and flipped. As they age, the beans turn from green to light brown, and their flavour gains strength while losing acidity. Aged coffees can display flavours ranging from cedar to spices such as cinnamon or clove, and often develop a thick, almost syrupy body. These aged coffees are called Old Government, Old Brown or Old Java.
The highland region of Kintamani, between the volcanoes of Batukaru and Agung, is the main coffee growing area on Bali. Many coffee farmers on Bali are members of a traditional farming system called Subak Abian, which is based on the Hindu philosophy of "Tri Hita Karana". According to this philosophy, the three causes of happiness are good relations with God, other people and the environment. This philosophy, specifically 'happiness with the environment' favors the production of organic coffee, or at least the use of organic fertilizers and the lack of use of agrochemicals. The Subak Abian system is ideally suited to the production of fair trade coffee production because the Subak organizes smallholders, which is often a requirement of fair trade certification.
Stakeholders in Bali, including the Subak Abian, have created Indonesia's first Geographic Indication (G.I.). Issued in 2008, the G.I. establishes legal protection for coffee produced in the Kintamani region. It also serves as a marketing tool to differentiate Kintamani coffee from coffees produced in other regions.
Generally, Balinese coffee is processed using the wet method. This results in a sweet, soft coffee with good consistency. Typical flavors include lemon and other citrus notes.
The western slopes of Mount Tambora in Sanggar peninsula is the main coffee-growing area in Sumbawa island, thus the coffee from this area is marketed as Tambora coffee. The intensive coffee plantation were begun in colonial era after the area was cleared up because of the eruption of Tambora volcano in 1815. However archaeological findings discover some coffee seeds in Tambora culture sites suggesting the local Tambora and Pekat kingdoms already cultivating the seeds acquired from Dutch East Indies Company, grow and harvest them and trade with them.
Flores (or Flower) Island is 360 miles long, and is located 200 miles to the east of Bali. The terrain of Flores is rugged, with numerous active and inactive volcanoes. Ash from these volcanoes has created especially fertile Andosols, ideal for organic coffee production. Arabica coffee is grown at 1,200 to 1,800 meters on hillsides and plateaus. Most of the production is grown under shade trees and wet processed at farm level. Coffee from Flores is known for sweet chocolate, floral and woody notes. A traditional style of processing, known as pulped natural, where parchment coffee is dried in its mucilage without fermentation, produces a floral coffee that has been found to be highly sought after by some buyers.
New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. The western half of New Guinea is part of Indonesia. The Indonesian half of the island was formerly called "Irian Jaya". Today, it is known as Papua, and it is divided into two provinces – Papua and West Papua.
There are two main coffee growing areas in Papua. The first is the Baliem Valley, in the central highlands of the Jayawijaya region, surrounding the town of Wamena. The second is the Kamu Valley in the Nabire Region, at the eastern edge of the central highlands, surrounding the town of Moanemani. Both areas lie at altitudes between 1,400 and 2000 meters, creating ideal conditions for Arabica production.
Together, these areas produce about 230 tons of coffee per year. This is set to rise, as new companies are setting up buying and processing operations. One of them is Koperasi Serba Usaha Baliem Arabica or commonly known in Indonesia as Koperasi Serba Usaha Baliem Arabica. These companies are assisting farmers to obtain organic and fair trade certification, which will significantly improve incomes. The area is extremely remote, with most coffee growing areas inaccessible by road and nearly untouched by the modern world.
All coffee is shade grown under Calliandra, Erythrina and Albizia trees. Farmers in Papua use a wet hulled process. Chemical fertilizer pesticide and herbicide are unknown in this origin, which makes this coffee both rare and valuable.