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Indonesia - Where Coffee is Commercially Grown Earliest

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Outside Africa and Arabia which is the birthplace of coffee and where coffee was first traded, Indonesia is one of the earliest countries that brought in coffee plants and commercially developed coffee plantations. Now Indonesia is the 4th largest coffee exporter including Robusta and Arabica.

Coffee first arrived on Java island in Indonesia. Due to the geographical and climate match, it creates a well suited environment for coffee plantations. In order to expand and increase coffee production, the colonial government extended the coffee plants to Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali and other islands. There are very different features of coffee from different regions of Indonesia. Coffees from Sumatra are well known for its smooth, sweet body with balanced and intense. The most famous trade name of Sumatra coffee is Mandheling. It is used for arabica coffee from northern Sumatra. It was derived from the name of the Mandheling people, who produce coffee in the Tapanuli region of Sumatra. Due to low acidity and strong body nature of Sumatra coffee, Belux coffee Roasters use it to blend with Brazil coffee to create a strong body and round tasting for our medium-dark Jumping Lapin. This blend is good for espresso to generate sweet crema and it delivers a decent body when doing pour over.

Most coffee in Indonesia is grown by small farmers. They hand pick ripe cherries and deliver them to the mill. The coffee process in Indonesia is called the "giling basah" (or wet hulling) process which is different from the traditional “washed” process. After depulping cherry and some fermentation to take out mucilage, coffee with parchment is sun dry for 2-3 days only, then farms hull parchment when coffee still contains 30-50% of humidity. After another sun dry for 2-4 days, the humidity is reduced to 10-12%, then the farms collect coffee, put it into storage and prepare to ship. The benefits for this process is to reduce impact by rain and humidity in the environment. Meanwhile due to shortening the process time, it increases body and reduces acidity. However the shortfall is after hulling the coffee still has higher humidity and may cause some contamination. Furthermore when the beans are rotated during sun dry without outer shell protection, it’s easy to get damaged. So when we source the coffee from Sumatra, we select double-pick, even triple-pick Grade 1 coffee to make sure the quality of the bean.

Although many of coffee from Indonesia uses the “wet hulling” process, some regions still use traditional process. In 2019 we shared with our members the same coffee from West Java Indonesia coffee farm with 4 different processes (natural, semi-washed, honey and washed), and they tasted very different. So we know the coffee process does affect coffee flavors.

This month we have a new coffee from Sulawesi. Sulawesi accounts for only 2% of coffee from Indonesia and are mostly Arabica. While Giling Basah is the traditional processing method, the central highlands of Southern Sulawesi, Tana Toraja, grows some of the best coffee and is washed process. This is due to Japanese importers invested heavily in Sulawesian coffee. The coffee we selected comes from this area and the farm is Japanese and Indonesian joint venture that results in building a high quality process to produce coffee. The size of beans looks fairly large (AA 19+) and beautiful. We do a medium dark roast profile to create more sweetness. The taste notes are bright acidity, tropical fruit notes and a molasses sweetness. You will notice the hidden fruity notes in the rich body when it cools down. A very enjoyable coffee from Indonesia that is worth trying.

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