Cupping Notes: Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Syrupy
Indonesia was the fourth-largest producer of coffee in the world in 2014. Coffee cultivation in Indonesia began in the late 1600s and early 1700s, in the early Dutch colonial period, and has played an important part in the growth of the country. Indonesia is geographically and climatologically well-suited for coffee plantations, near the equator and with numerous interior mountainous regions on its main islands, creating well-suited microclimates for the growth and production of coffee.
Indonesia produced an estimated 660,000 metric tons of coffee in 2017. Of this total, it is estimated that 154,800 tons were slated for domestic consumption in the 2013/2014 financial year. Of the exports, 25% are arabica beans; the balance is robusta. In general, Indonesia's arabica coffee varieties have low acidity and strong bodies, which make them ideal for blending with higher-acidity coffees from Central America and East Africa.
The Dutch governor in Malabar (India) sent arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) seedlings from Yemen to the Dutch governor of Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1696. The first seedlings failed due to flooding in Batavia. The second shipment of seedlings was sent in 1699 with Hendrik Zwaardecroon. The plants grew, and in 1711 the first exports were sent from Java to Europe by the Dutch East India Company, known by its Dutch initials VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie), such that 2000 pounds were shipped in 1717. Indonesia was the first place, outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, where coffee was widely cultivated.
The coffee was shipped to Europe from the port of Batavia (now Jakarta). There has been a port at the mouth of Ciliwung River since 397 AD, when King Purnawarman established the city he called Sunda Kelapa. Today, in the Kota area of Jakarta, one can find echoes of the seagoing legacy that built the city. Sail driven ships still load cargo in the old port. The Bahari museum occupies a former warehouse of the VOC, which was used to store spices and coffee. Menara Syahbandar (or Lookout Tower) was built in 1839 to replace the flag pole that stood at the head of wharves, where the VOC ships docked to load their cargos
In the 18th century, coffee shipped from Batavia sold for 3 Guilders per kilogram in Amsterdam. Since annual incomes in Holland in the 18th century were between 200 and 400 Guilders, this was equivalent of several hundred dollars per kilogram today. By the end of the 18th century, the price had dropped to 0.6 Guilders per kilogram and coffee drinking spread from the elite to the general population The East Indies were the most important coffee supplier in the world during this period and it was only in the 1840s that their stranglehold on supply was eclipsed by Brazil
The coffee trade was very profitable for the VOC, and for the Dutch East Indies government that replaced it in 1800, but was less so for the Indonesian farmers who were forced to grow it by the colonial government from 1830 to around 1870 under the Cultuurstelsel (Cultivation system). Production of export crops were delivered to government warehouses instead of taxes. Coffee, along with sugar and indigo, was one of the main crops produced under this highly exploitative colonial system. Cultuurstelsel was applied to coffee in the Preanger region of West Java, as well as in West Sumatra, South Sulawesi and the Minahasa region of North Sulawesi. This corrupt system, which diverted labor from rice production and caused great hardship for farmers, was immortalized through an influential novel by Eduard Douwes Dekker (pen name - Multatuli) in 1860 titled Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company. This book helped to change Dutch public opinion about the "Cultivation System" and colonialism in general. More recently, the name Max Havelaar was adopted by one of the first fair trade organizations.
By the mid 1870s the Dutch East Indies expanded arabica coffee-growing areas in Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi and Timor. In Sulawesi the coffee was thought to have been planted around 1850. In North Sumatra highlands coffee was first grown near Lake Toba in 1888, followed in Gayo highland (Aceh) near Lake Laut Tawar in 1924. Coffee at the time was also grown in East Indonesia- East Timor and Flores. Both of these islands were originally under Portuguese control and the coffee was also C. arabica, but from different root stocks. The coffee in Eastern Indonesia was not affected to the same degree by rust, and even today, it is believed that some coffee in East Timor can be traced back to the 18th century.
In the late eighteen hundreds, Dutch colonialists established large coffee plantations on the Ijen Plateau in eastern Java. However, disaster struck in the 1876, when the coffee rust disease, Hemileia vastatrix, swept through Indonesia, wiping out most of the Arabica Typica cultivar. Robusta coffee (C. canephor var. robusta) was introduced to East Java in 1900 as a substitute, especially at lower altitudes, where the rust was particularly devastating. Robusta coffee was introduced to smallholders around Kerinci around 1915, and then spread quickly across southern Sumatra during the 1920s, where production soon eclipsed Java. The region remains the most important producing region by volume today.
Dutch-owned plantations on Java were nationalized in the 1950s, soon after independence. and are now managed as state-owned plantations under PTPN - Perusahaan Terbatas Perkebunan Nusantara, and revitalized with new varieties of Coffea arabica in the 1950s. These varieties were also adopted by smallholders through the government and various development programs.
Today, more than 90% of Indonesia's coffee is grown by smallholders on farms averaging around one hectare. Some of this production is chemical free and many farmers’ cooperatives and exporters are internationally certified to market this 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.
West Java was the region where the earliest coffee plantations were established by the VOC. The Dutch began cultivation and exportation of coffee trees on Java (part of the Dutch East Indies) in the 17th century. Agricultural systems in Java have changed considerably over time. A rust plague in the late 1880s killed off much of the plantation stocks in the Sukabumi area before spreading to Central Java and parts of East Java. The Dutch responded by replacing the Arabica firstly with Liberica (a tough, but somewhat unpalatable coffee) and later with Robusta.
As of 2015 Java's old colonial-era plantations provide just a fraction of the coffee grown on the island; they produce primarily the higher-valued Arabica variety. 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 "Mocha 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.