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Coffee was first cultivated in Indonesia by the Dutch, with history stretching back as far as 1696. The first coffee plants were grown in Sukabumi and Bogor, eventually expanding to Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. While Indonesia is one of the world’s producer of Robusta coffee, it’s Arabica coffee is well-regarded as one of the finest in the world. Today, the prime coffee-growing regions in Indonesia are Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Bali.
Most Arabica coffee in Java is grown on the Ijen Plateau, with elevations of 1400m. Java Arabica coffee is grown on large colonial-era estates built by the Dutch in the 1900s. The five largest estates operating today cover more than 4000 hectares, namely Tugosari, Pancoer, Kayumas, Blawan and Jampit. Java Arabica coffee tends to have low acidity, a full body and lingering finish. The finest Java Arabica coffee has bright flavour profile with notes of figs and spices. Some estates age their coffee for years, concentrating its flavour and reducing its acidity. The result is a much sought after coffee with bold syrupy body and spicy notes of cinnamon and clove called Old Java.
The coffee of Sumatra is famous for the diversity of taste profile resulting from the large number of small-batch coffee producers as well as its excellent cup quality. The most famous of these is the Mandheling Arabica coffee, produced outside the city of Padang. The coffee typically undergoes a drying process before being washed in hot water, which contributes to its unique flavour. Mandheling has low acidity, heavy body and rich complex flavour notes of chocolate, cedar with earthy finish. Another well-known coffee from Sumatra is the Gayo coffee. The coffee is grown under the shade of trees in the hillsides of Takengon and Lake Tawar, located at the northern tip of Sumatra in Aceh. The coffee is processed traditionally using wet hulling method, the result of which is a lighter-bodied coffee.
Sulawesi grows most of its coffee in the mountainous area of Toraja, which occupies the island’s centre. With elevation of 1500m above sea level and its cool weather, the region offers the perfect conditions for coffee cultivation. However, the mountainous terrain results in low-yield due to the haphazard planting of the coffee plant. Toraja coffee is mostly planted by private smallholders who handpick the ripe coffee cherries to sort out the best quality. The Toraja coffee is well-known for its full-bodied, clean and crisp taste with notes of caramel, cardamom and undertones of fruit notes.
Coffee is grown in Bali in the Kintamani highlands located between Batukaru and Agung volcanoes. A distinctive attribute of Bali coffee is the usage of organic fertilisers and lack of agrochemicals usage in its cultivation. Besides the obvious advantage of its organic label, Bali’s farming system organises smallholders coffee farmers, qualifying Kintamani coffee its fair trade status. Kintamani coffee is prized for its sweet and mild coffee with bright citrusy tones.