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Indonesian Coffee: 10 Delicious Coffees from the Nation of Islands

Indonesian coffee is a top-quality coffee with a rich history. Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of coffee, with the highest quality and most expensive coffee in the world.

Brandon Pierce
August 10, 2022

Indonesia is known far and wide for its coffee beans production, a country entirely made up of island regions.

The top-flavor of processed coffee offered at the world-renowned coffee chain Starbucks is the "Sumatra Dark Roast Coffee." Many of the Indonesian coffees produced are in high-demand globally, even at your nearby local café, so you shouldn't have a hard time finding them.

However, nothing mainstream beats the original, and unprocessed Sumatra Mandheling Coffee.

Read further to explore the different elite flavors produced by Indonesian farmers that people worldwide love.

Wait till you discover the method of processing the Indonesians use in 'Kopi Luwak' or the unique cat poop coffee, made of half-eaten coffee cherries.

DOES INDONESIA CULTIVATE COFFEE?

History of Indonesian Coffee

Like every story of colonial history, the Dutch has played a vital role in establishing the Indonesian coffee plantations.

 Dutch East India Company landed in Indonesia's regions 400 years ago. With them, they brought unique and high-quality Arabica coffee beans.

indonesian coffee history

At that time, no other coffee flavor could top this specialty coffee, grown in the earthy crop plantations of Arabian countries and islands.

However, a disease called 'coffee rust' destroyed the coffee-growing plants. Then, the Dutch introduced the Robusta beans to the farmers. The new and unique flavor change was one of the best specialty coffees ever launched into the Indonesian taste-scape market.

These processed coffee beans are not something you can replicate at home. I've tried to copy the results; unsurprisingly, it did not end well.

Let's find out why Indonesian coffee beans of current growing regions are more well-known nowadays than traditional Arabica coffee.

Robusta Vs. Arabica Coffee

First, let's discuss the most common coffee varieties available: Robust and Arabica. The coffee beans we drink from largely come in these two varieties.

Some prefer the taste of Robusta coffee brands; they are high in caffeine and are rich with dark flavors. For people who like sweet coffees, low in caffeine, Arabica beans are the best way to go.

Out of the two, Arabica coffee does not come from quality coffee-producing plants, and it cannot be grown at low altitudes.

Some people also like the intermediate flavor, which is a blend of both; for them, various brands are available in the market.

Now we know what is different about them; what is the same about these varieties? Coffee cherry. In Indonesia, coffee cherries are produced from a distinct process known as 'giling basah.' Many Indonesian farmers use giling base, the wet grinding, and hulling of coffee beans.

TYPE AND TASTE OF INDONESIAN COFFEES

Indonesian coffees are known for their unique flavors and varieties. Here's a list of the organic, fresh, and dried coffee beans that the dealers export to your doorstep, directly from the plantations and mills of their home islands:

Sumatra Mandheling

The Sumatra Mandheling Coffee is named after the natives of the island region. Its beans usually give an earthy and syrupy texture and have low acidity.

 The downside is that production volumes are not high.

Hence, the world's top specialty brands vie to add the flavors of Mandheling coffees on their ingredient menus.

sumrata mandheling

News source Roast Coffee says that the 'rich flavor and full body' of the roast make the experience whole. The Sumatra Mandheling coffee also comes in dark and roasted forms.

Sulawesi Coffee

The full-bodied beans of Sulawesi Coffee, or Toraja Coffee, come from South-East Indonesia's high altitudes.

 It is the best go-to option when craving a cup of coffee rich with dark chocolate flavors.

Produced on the island of Sulawesi, Calabrese farmers use the wet hulling method.

sulawesi coffee

The method used to create Toraja Coffee employs partially-roasted beans. Many people enjoy the combined notes of acidity and dark roast found in this blend. The Toraja coffee hit contrasting taste notes, and the whole process had made the Sulawesi region famous globally.

Bali Coffee

The Bali bean is grown in volcanic soil and is the latest addition to the Indonesian coffee market. Unlike the Toraja or Sumatra, this coffee variety may be the best homemade recipes.

The Bali coffee farms wield partially-dry beans that go through a washing process before their exportation. The light-roasting and rich wood-like flavor quality and of the beans, on the whole, make it a popular flavor in Japan.

Creating "Bali beans" may make a producer wealthy in the coffee sales industry.

Java Arabica

The Island of Java is known for Java Arabica Coffee and its less famous brother, the Mocha Javanese Coffee. With low acidity, the Java Arabica gives a strong and robust flavor.

Coffee production in Java has gone on since before the region was a part of the independent-Indonesian archipelago islands.

While Sumatra Mandheling and Toraja coffee use wet-hulling, Java coffees are made from wet-processing.

Indonesian farmers achieve the coffee-growing method using wet-processed beans. Java Coffee is usually not available worldwide due to this complicated method of processing.

Kopi Luwak

As a different and limited flavor, this dark blend of Kopi Luwak coffee is a part of the 'not-well-liked' taste series. What makes it rare also makes it the single-most disgusting coffee choice worldwide. 

Civet cats eat coffee beans from Kopi Luwak plants.

The beans then digest through a civet cat's system, and then their dried organic feces are picked off the earth.

kopi luwak

Kopi Luwak is also a method of farming famous in the Asian estates. In many-a-region of Asia, the wild civet cats are kept in cages and fed dry produce, only to use their feces as a food product later.

Did You Know? Kopi Luwak coffee one of the most expensive coffee varieties globally, with prices starting from 700 dollars per kilogram. 

Due to such instances, we have to ask ourselves: are these expensive coffee brands worth crossing ethical boundaries? Also, will humans go to any possible length to tickle their tasting notes, all in the name of flavor?

THE ISLAND OF COFFEE

Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, and Java are the oldest and largest coffee-producing islands of Indonesia. On the 13000 islands in its archipelago, coffee production of Indonesian brands comes from many small-holder farms.

Agriculture has been a part of the historical development of Indonesia for many centuries. Unlike other nations, Indonesia takes pride in its agricultural triumphs. It has also profited from the exportation of its organic produce.

Indonesian Coffee Agriculture

Indonesia has usually been amongst the top five on the list of countries that export coffee beans internationally. .

After a failure in the oil export industry, the Indonesian government focused on supplying food products.

Due to a smart policy passed in 1980, current Indonesian coffee demand is high worldwide

indonesian coffee Agriculture

For a healthy harvest, every coffee bean is grown in various regions without the presence of sunlight. The coffee cherries are also processed using the soil's nutrients, which provides rich nourishment to the coffee bean.

Various programs have been introduced by the Indonesian government, aiming to expand the coffee plantations through technology and agricultural development. Initiatives with flagship organizations like SCOPI and Fairtrade have been extremely successful.

The quick urbanization and development of the country's cities have also contributed to the constant increase of business opportunities for the coffee industry locals.

However, compared to other Asian coffee-producing countries, Indonesia's coffee gives a relatively low yield per hectare. This certainly does not mean that there is any lesser demand for this unique syrupy blend of varietal coffee.

I would pay as high as required, only to get one sip of this coffee that grows once-a-year around September.

Global Consumption of Coffee from Indonesia

Sumatra and Java coffees are some of the most consumed beverages across the world. Last year, the Global Coffee Report estimated that Indonesia provided '3.9 million 60-kilogram bags' to the total global coffee production. Arabica coffee contributed only 25 percent out of the whole.

The Indonesian natives consume approximately one-sixth of their annual coffee production. Since the locals themselves try and consume a considerable amount of their coffee production, the prices of the external export of coffee in Indonesia have exploded to unimaginable limits.

While this is desirable for the Indonesian population, the coffee itself has become excessively pricey for its consumers in the American and European sub-continent countries.

In the process of profiting off from coffee, Indonesia has always exported off these coffee beans. However, the coffee industry's privatization has positively benefitted internal Indonesian coffee networks.

It has turned the direction of external transportation to internal consumption. This new obsession of the Indonesian population with the different varieties -- such as chocolate, dark and earthy -- of this drinking medium can turn the current food consumption ratios into a national coffee culture model.

Well, we can't argue with that because who else deserves the tasty flavors of Indonesian coffee more than the Indonesians themselves?

THE PROCESS BEHIND INDONESIAN COFFEE

Coffee, Indonesia, and the strong relationship between the bean and country is a complex tale. Be it a dark and roasted or a half-dry, chocolate-flavored bean, each of the Indonesian coffee holds a special place in the hearts of its natives.

To understand the importance and popularity of coffee in Indonesia and its prevalence worldwide, let's first examine how it is commercialized by one of Starbucks's most prominent coffee brands.

To supply a select, reserve of beans, Starbucks exclusively works with a particular area of Indonesia. Thus, the Island of Java produces one of the most popular flavors available on the international coffee supplier's taste palette.

Coffee growing regions such as these have a handful of producers managing small-scale plantations. Also, the Indonesian beans come in low quantities as they can only be grown between May and September.

The Indonesian Blue Java coffee is processed using rich, earthy-flavored fruits in the Indonesian islands' cold regions. In my view, this blend of Java coffee should be a must-try on the roaster menu of any local Starbucks local store.

How is it made?

Any self-respecting Indonesian coffee producer will pride themselves on their complex and rich method of creating roasted and earthy coffee beans.

After picking the cherries off the trees, the farmer leaves them to dry off. The half-dried cherries are then de-pulped by hand in a mill. The standard established medium of coffee-growing trade in Indonesia is the milling enterprise.

Finally, the coffees are again washed and covered in parchment to get the desired earthy, roasted, syrupy, and low-acidity quality.

However, due to the humid climate and the absence of industrial mechanisms, the Indonesian industry might possess high-quality coffee. Still, the population responsible for the job does not live a full life.

Note:  Weather is the biggest enemy of Indonesian coffees.

 A local producer in any other country gets at least three batches of coffee year-round. On the other hand, in Indonesia, coffee grows in extremely humid climates.

This makes ripening and growing green beans a very, very slow process. At the fastest, a cultivator can get up to a single batch of coffee in eight months.

Because of the complicated roasting process in production or the creation of the best, region-centered Sulawesi coffee, Indonesian coffee demands high dedication levels.

Hence, the population of Indonesia enjoys and consumes its best-work like there is no tomorrow.

WEIRD COFFEES THAT ARE A MUST-TRY

Here's a list of some of the weirdest available coffees whose main component is the Indonesia-based bean:

Tabalek Coffee

The body and structure of the arranged utensils is the weirdest part of this drink. With a glass placed upside down on a plate, you must drink the Aceh coffee from a straw.

A reminder for all coffee-lovers: Don't forget to ask your cafe waiter to bring an eco-friendly straw with the drink, or even better, carry a steel straw of your own!

Takar Coffee

A thick-textured concoction served in a coconut; this drink hails from the Mendheling regions of North Sumatra. Unlike other Sumatra coffees, this drink replaces the standard cup with a coconut.

The medium of sipping is a cinnamon stick, a win-win for drinkers who love to trigger their tasting notes and are ecologically conscious.

Ijo Coffee

Known as the Green Coffee, the beverage is more flavor-focused rather than presentation. Coming in a glass, the coffee's soft taste and unusual color make the fundamental steps of brewing it worth the long wait. 

Wonderful Indonesia calls it a 'heaven on earth' because of the precise method of using traditional tools. It involves using wood to carefully roast each bean on a pan of clay and then crush it.

One would think that the slow and time-consuming cooking will irritate the drinker, but the end outcome is certain to die for!

Transparent Coffee

A single, rare beverage that can't be found anywhere on earth. This coffee employs the same brewing and roasting techniques as any other black coffee; it uses the same beans and flavor as any other coffee produce, yet, it looks like water.

Available only at the 201 Brew and Roastery in the capital Jakarta, this variety of Indonesian coffee has undoubtedly changed the whole outlook of many on the 'black-and-chocolate' cult of coffee-lovers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Indonesian coffee is really good. The Dutch colonizers were not good at roasting and brewing their drinks.

However, with their ill-intentions of exporting the fresh-faced concept of coffees to the whole world and profiting in the process, they may have changed the New World in matters of well-grown beans.

In today's world, we have a whole range of full-body, fresh, earthy, low-acidity, and chocolate-flavored bean variety at our disposal. As a result, Indonesian coffee comes in multiple blend and taste palettes -- Sumatra coffees, Java, Kopi Luwak, Sulawesi, Toraja, etc.

All you have to know is that all coffees of this country utilize complex and complicated recipes that leave your full-body buzzing with satisfaction!


Brandon Pierce

About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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