Coffee Origins: Guide to Indonesian Coffee Beans

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Without a doubt, one of the most common nicknames for coffee is Java. You’ve likely called coffee Java many times, but did you know where this name originated from?

Java is an island in Indonesia where coffee trees were first discovered growing. Indonesian coffee is popular worldwide, but a lot of people don’t realize they’re consuming it. If you’re a coffee drinker, you likely know that not all coffee beans are the same.

On this page, we’re going to discuss everything that coffee drinkers should know about Indonesian coffee. Keep reading for your full guide to Indonesian coffee.

The Coffee History of Indonesia

The history of coffee can be dated all the way back to the 1600s. This is when the first coffee trees started growing in Java, which is an island near the city of Jakarta, which was later named Batavia. However, the coffee plants came to Indonesia by Dutch traders that have secured the coffee seeds from Yemen. 

Since Java was the first successful place to grow coffee trees, it become one of the first major exports of coffee. In the early 1700s, there were plantations launched throughout the city and Java has become the biggest coffee production city in the world. The city exported coffee worldwide, with Europe being one of the top-consuming regions.

While Java was the original island in Indonesia where coffee production was booming, it wasn’t long before other islands in Indonesia got involved in the coffee industry. 

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Coffee Growing Regions of Indonesia

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, there’s a good chance that some of your favorite coffee beans come from Indonesia and you don’t even know it. A lot of high-quality roasts are grown in Indonesia, but when you buy them, they usually aren’t labeled as Indonesian coffee. Instead, the coffee beans are labeled by region.

There are several coffee regions throughout Indonesia, such as:

  • Java
  • Sumatra
  • Bali
  • Sulawesi
  • Papua
  • Timor

Many Starbucks customers are familiar with Sumatra blends. This is high-quality coffee that hits the spot for a lot of coffee drinkers because of its bold earthy flavor. Coffee drinkers pick up notes of cocoa, tobacco, cedar, and smoke when drinking Sumatra coffee beans. 

When the weather cools off, many people enjoy filling their cups with Sulawesi coffee because of its warming spicy notes. Each Indonesian coffee-growing region produces some of the best coffee beans in the world. 

Indonesian Coffee Varieties

Indonesian coffee varieties are noticeably different from other varieties around the world. The reason for this is that Indonesian coffee beans are wet-processed.

Wet-processing is a process that involves fermenting the coffee cherries in large tanks. When they are fermented, all the pulp will be washed off. The process ends with the coffee cherries being dried off.

Some Indonesian coffee farmers will manage the wet processing at their farms. When doing this, they use a machine that ge4ts cranked by hand to remove the skin and pulp from the coffee cherries. These farmers have a number of different ways that they can ferment the cherries, but the most common choices include:

  • Plastic tub
  • Polypropylene bag
  • Concrete tank

Farmers will always wash off the fermented coffee cherries, which is an important step in wet processing. 

Wet processing can be done with both Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, and both varieties are grown in Indonesia. Indonesian islands with high altitudes grow Arabica coffee, while the islands with low altitudes grow Robusta coffee beans.

Image Credit: World Agroforestry via flickr

Indonesian Coffee Flavor Profile

Coffee drinkers who love a dark and bold roast as often attracted to Indonesian coffees. The exact flavor notes of the coffee beans will depend on what region of Indonesia the beans are grown in. For example, some coffee farms in Bali are on volcanic soil, which adds a mineralized flavor to the coffee and results in a more earthy taste.

While each Indonesian coffee variety will have specific flavor notes, there are specific flavors that are staples to Indonesian coffees, such as:

  • Earthiness
  • Smokey
  • Tobacco
  • Musk
  • Spice
  • Wood
  • Leather
  • Dark cocoa

Every Indonesian coffee is very bold, which makes it a hit or miss for coffee drinks. Some coffee drinkers can’t get enough of the rich and high-quality blends, making Indonesian coffee a delectable treat. Other coffee drinkers find that the smokiness of the brew is overwhelming and it’s not something they enjoy.

Indonesian Coffee Exports

There is a lot of money in the coffee industry in Indonesia. Since there are many growing regions in Indonesia, the country is able to produce a lot of coffee. This allows them to export coffee to several countries around the world. On average, Indonesia exports over 6 million 60 kg bags of coffee beans annually. 

Indonesia is actually one of the largest coffee exporters worldwide. The US is the biggest consumer of Indonesian coffee. In the year 2020, Indonesia exported 809.16 million dollars worth of coffee to the US alone. Malaysia, Japan, and Canada are also big consumers of Indonesian coffee. 

When the COVID-19 outbreak put the world on pause, a lot of exporting industries were hurt. However, Indonesian coffee sales increased, with the country seeing a higher level of sales. Since the country’s climate is perfectly suited for growing coffee, the farmers are able to keep up with the increase in demand. 

Where to Buy the Best Indonesian Coffee Beans?

Volcanica Coffee is one of the best places to buy authentic Indonesian coffee beans. They have a wide selection on beans from different regions in Indonesia. Their Sumatra Gayo Coffee is one the finest coffees in the world.

Equator Coffees has also been purchasing coffee beans from cooperatives in the Gayo Highlands, Indonesia. You can try their Sumatra Queen Ketiara Coffee that has flavors of vanilla, milk chocolate, fresh pipe tobacco, and hints of clove and tangerine.

The Sumatra Dark Roast from Cooper’s Cask Coffee has dark rich flavors and rustic earth tones. This Indonesian offering seems the perfect coffee for you if you’re looking for premium coffee beans with a bold dark roast and flavor profile.

If you want to try Indonesian coffee, always look for the growing region on the label. Some of the most common ones to find include Sumatra, Bali, and Java.

It seems Sumatra is the region that grows the best coffee. But that’s not the case. The island of Sulawesi produces a coffee that is less rich and lighter, yet more vibrant and livelier in flavor. Be sure to check it out.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this guide to Indonesian coffee. While people all over the world start their morning off with a cup of coffee, they often don’t realize how far that coffee traveled to get to their mug. Coffee grows in many places across the world, and each growing region brings something unique to the coffee beans.

While Indonesian coffee is prepared using a wet-processing technique, it is also most notable for its smokey and earthy flavors. In the end, people who prefer dark roasts and bold flavor often appreciate the flavor profile of Indonesian coffee.

Like this article? You might want to read: What Are Kona Coffee Beans? (A Guide to Price, Flavour, Region)