Coffee is grown in many parts of the world. Each of these origin coffees will have the unique characteristics based on climate, soil, agriculture and processing. The Indonesian countries that produce coffee are: Sumatra, Sulawesi, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Java. Indonesia is the third largest coffee producing region in the world. However, these regions only cultivate a small portion of arabica beans and are highly sought after.
Sumatra is probably the best known of the Indonesian coffees. Coffee has been produced in Sumatra since the 1700s. There is little regional distinction between coffees produced in different areas of Sumatra, so coffees sold as Estate coffees (from a particular farm) are rare. These are mostly wet processed coffees, which means the fresh fruit pulp is washed from the outside of the coffee bean, rather than allowed to dry and then be removed. Sumatran coffees can be roasted medium-dark to dark. Medium-dark will reveal the best flavors from the beans, although dark roast is more commonly seen. This coffee has a rich flavor, full body and wonderful aroma with spicy undertones. In medium-dark roasts, a nutty aroma and flavor comes through.
Sulawesi beans, which are sometimes referred to by the Colonial name “Celebes”, are very similar to Sumatra beans. They have very earthy notes and low acidity. Sulawesi coffees are also prized for their syrupy notes. There are some Sulawesi beans which are held as green beans for a very long time and marketed as “aged Sulawesi”. These unusual coffees have a stronger earth note to them, with an underlying muskiness.
East Timor is a small island located between Sulawesi and Australia. Coffee production is the most important economy of East Timor, especially since the country gained independence in 1999. Many of the coffees from this island are organic coffees and most are processed by the wet method. This coffee has the familiar Indonesian earthy, rich flavor. Spicy notes of sweet cinnamon and mild acidity make this a fine coffee.
Papua New Guinea is on the eastern half of Indonesia. Coffees from Papua New Guinea are different than others in Indonesia. They are often called a ‘wild coffee’. They have fewer of the distinctive earthy tones found in many Indonesian coffees. Papua New Guinea coffees are processed by the wet method. There are also many estate coffees from Papua New Guinea and each have their own special characteristics. Common threads in these coffees are: fruity tones, lower acidity and well-rounded body. Many coffees from Papua New Guinea are also organically grown.
Java is located east of Jakarta. The government of Java actually controls about 80% of the coffee grown in East Java and is its own Estate coffee. It is a wet processed coffee. Java is usually blended with another coffee to make Mocha Java, which isn’t chocolate like the name implies, but the region (Mokka) where the other bean comes from. Java beans have a cleaner flavor than either the Sumatra or Sulawesi. They have a lighter body and slightly more acidity than other Indonesians.
If you haven’t tried an Indonesian coffee, find a local roaster who offers any of these origins mentioned here and you won’t be disappointed!