Read time: 3-4 minutes
Indonesia‘s geographical location provides them with the optimum climate for growing and producing coffee. Currently sitting at the third largest coffee producer in the world, Indonesia’s coffee history is just as rich as the flavours you’ll find in a cup of their coffee.
What many people don’t know is that coffee isn’t actually native to Indonesia – it was brought across by a Dutch company, Verininging Oost-Indies Company (VOC) when Indonesia was still under Dutch occupation in the 17th century.
At the time, the Arabs had a worldwide monopoly on the coffee trade industry, and the Indonesians wanted to break it. Initially, the Dutch Colonial Government only planted coffee around Jakarta (which was known as Batavia at the time), and further south in Sukabumi and Bogor.
As time passed, more coffee plantations were established in East, Central, and West Java along with parts of Sumatra and Sulawesi. Areas were deforested and cultivated specifically for the development of coffee plantations as their share in the coffee trade grew.
The growth of so many coffee plantations throughout the country was heavily responsible for a large amount of infrastructure development in Central Java around the beginning of the 19th century. Roads and railways were desperately needed to transport coffee beans from the islands’ interior to the port city of Semarang where coffee was exported worldwide.
A massive portion of coffee trees across Indonesia contracted coffee rust – a fungus that grows a yellow-orange powdery substance on coffee trees – in 1876. It very quickly spread through plantations, devastating the Indonesian coffee industry.
While the east side of the islands were also affected by this outbreak, it was not to the same extent that Java had, as a different rootstock had been planted.
After the devastation caused by the coffee rust outbreak, many plantation owners didn’t replant coffee and instead turned their farms into tea or rubber tree farms, both of which are much less prone to disease.
The Dutch responded to the coffee rust issue by importing and planting Liberica coffee. This variety had a very short-lived run in Indonesia as it was also affected by disease. It can still sometimes be found in Java, but not as a commercial crop.
After the failure of both Arabica and Liberica coffee varietals due to disease, the Dutch then imported the Robusta variety, which is much more resistant to disease. Nowadays, robusta makes up around 90% of the Indonesian coffee crop.
World War 2 and the Indonesian’s struggle for independence played a very large part in following changes in the Indonesian coffee market – plantations were briefly overtaken by the Japanese before Indonesia gained independence in 1945.
Main Growing Regions
Java is one of the largest islands in the archipelago and is also Indonesia’s largest coffee producer. Old Java is well-known for the production of one of the finest aging coffees in the world.
Sumatra produces two of the world’s most famous and high-quality coffees – Mandheling and Ankola.
Sulawesi, once known as Celebes, predominantly uses a dry processing method on their farms. More often than not, coffee is grown here using traditional practices of coffee cultivation. The picking and sorting of coffee cherries is done completely by hand, ensuring the coffee is a very high quality. These growing and harvesting methods and utilised in this area due to the mountainous and hazardous terrain. These methods result in only 300 kilograms of usable coffee cherries per hectare.
The three main growing regions all have slightly differing flavour profiles. Java coffee is less likely to be arabica than other Indonesian growing regions, and has a rich spiciness followed by a sweet earthiness. Sulawesi coffee is quite light with a buttery mouthfeel, with a cedary aroma and slightly fruity taste. Sumatran coffee is fairly similar to that of Sulawesi, but has a bit of a heavier body, along with a lower acidity and tasting notes of earth, spice and forestry.
Indonesian coffee is often prepared with sweetened condensed milk rather than full cream milk and/or sugar.
For the month of July, we have an Indonesian Sumatran Wahana Estate Rasuna Natural Grade 1 coffee in stock. It has beautiful stewed fruit flavours with a heavy body and low acidity. Sumatran Wahana Estate Rasuna Natural Grade 1 coffee goes great in both black and white coffees – grab some while you can by clicking the product image below!