Coffee Culture in Indonesia , and Where to Find the Best Coffee
Indonesia is known for its coffee culture and is the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia. Coffee is grown all across the archipelago and you will find simple coffee shops that sell instant coffee or traditional coffee drinks on almost every street corner.
In recent years coffee consumption has also increased in Indonesia and more and more coffee shops are springing up which are aimed at a rising middle class and the increased numbers of visitors to Indonesia. With that in mind, if you want a cup of coffee in Indonesia then you won’t have to look far.
History of coffee growing in Indonesia
Coffee consumption in Indonesia has a long history as the beans were first brought to Indonesia in the 17th century by the Dutch during the colonial period. The beans quickly flourished in the fertile soil around Java, Sumatra, Bali and Sulawesi, and now you can enjoy varieties of coffee from all over the archipelago.
In the days of old Arabica was the best known kind of coffee in Indonesia but nowadays you can also get Robusta blends which are used in a percentage of coffee based drinks across the country. This depends very much on where you are, but if you are in Sumatra you are more likely to come across Robusta coffee than in other parts of the country.
Coffee growing regions in Indonesia
There are a number of coffee growing regions around Indonesia but these are mostly located in Sumatra which is the biggest coffee producer in Indonesia. You will also find plantations in other spots however such as Java, Sulawesi and Bali, but one thing to note is that these are usually small and most farms and growers do not work for companies but instead work on their own small parcels of land which are a few hectares large at best. This means that there are not as many dedicated coffee tours in Indonesia as you would expect as many of the plantations are so small, but a few do exist on a larger and more organized scale if you know where to look.
One of the biggest producers of coffee in Indonesia is the island of Sumatra which has a huge range of blends including Karo, Lintong, Mandailing and Kerinci.
If you want to try some of the beans and tour a plantation then you need to head to the town of Berastagi in Karo Regency which you can access via the town of Medan. You can fly to Medan and then take a car or bus to Berastagi where a number of coffee plantation tours are on offer as well as tours of fruit orchards and strawberry farms.
Bali is also known for its coffee plantations and you can fly to the island through Ngurah Rai International Airport and then take a private car or a bus to a local plantation. Many of these are located in and around the town of Ubud which is also known for its stepped rice field terraces, so this is a great place to come to see how Indonesian coffee is grown and made.
One of the main plantations here is known as Satria Coffee Plantation and you can sign up for a tour as well as sample some of the famous brews at the same time.
The island of Java is of course synonymous with coffee and there are a number of places where you can visit a plantation and drink some delicious coffee at the same time. Some of the best places to do so around the cities of Bandung, Yogyakarta and Surabaya and some of the best known plantation in Java include the MesaStila Resort and Spa that does plantation tours around Yogyakarta as well as the Kaliklatik Plantation which is close to Mount Bromo.
To get to any of these plantations your best bet is to fly to the capital city of Indonesia which is Jakarta and then travel overland by car, bus or train to other cities in Java such as Yogyakarta, Surabaya or Bandung. From there you can continue on to a plantation tour which will usually be on the outskirts of one of these cities.
Famous Indonesian Coffee Brands
When it comes to Indonesian coffee brands you won’t find too many actual branded coffees that are not instant coffee. If you want to try instant or package coffees in Indonesia then some of the most famous brands are Kapal Api, Tanamera and Anomali coffees.
It helps however if you are in Indonesia to focus not on the brands of coffee so much but on the specific beans, such as Mandailing in Sumatra, Gayo Coffee from Aceh and Lintong which is also from Sumatra. In other places such as Sulawesi the beans are usually just known as Sulawesi which is similar to other places like Java and Bali where the beans do not have regional names as such.
Indonesia specialty coffee
The main kind of specialty coffee in Indonesia is known as kopi luwak. This kind of coffee has become rather famous in recent years as it is made using civets which eat coffee beans and then expel them. The partly digested beans are then collected, cleaned, and used to make coffee, which has led to kopi luwak being known as poo coffee. It is also one of the most expensive coffees in the region as it is labour intensive to make. You can try kopi luwak all over Indonesia as it is not really a regional coffee, but is widely sold across the archipelago.
Another specialty coffee is Acehnese coffee which comes from Aceh originally but which you can find all over the country. The difference when it comes to Acehnese coffee or Kopi Aceh as it is known is that it is very thick and the coffee grounds make a kind of sludge at the bottom of your glass. In order to make it easier and more palatable to drink, the coffee is passed through a sieve which is often referred to as a ‘sock’ to leave you with a smooth cup of very bitter coffee at the end of it.
If you happen to be in the capital of Aceh which is Banda Aceh then head to Warung Kopi Salong which first opened its doors in the 1970s and which is said to be one of the best places in Aceh to get this kind of traditional coffee. They also grind their beans on site and sell bags of either full or ground beans so that you can buy a bag to take home as a souvenir of this very unique kind of Indonesian coffee.
Coffee houses for the best coffee
If you want to try some of the best coffee in Indonesia then you need to head to a good coffee shop to get your hands on the real deal. You can still buy local coffee in small shops all over the archipelago, but for more sophisticated offerings such as lattes, cappuccinos, espresso shots and blended drinks then you need to visit a more established coffee shop such as the ones listed below.
One of the best places to try coffee in Indonesia is in Bali and you will be spoiled for choice wherever you find yourself on the island.
If you are in Seminyak, then head to Expat Roasters which is a coffee shop for serious drinkers as it was opened by Shae Macnamara who is an award winning barista. Here you drink a range of different coffees based on their farm to table philosophy as they work with local growers in Bali to bring you the best brews in the business.
If you are staying in Canggu then you need to head to Hungry Bird which is said to be one of the best places in Bali to sample a range of different coffees. The beans are ground on site and they serve different kinds of coffee from all over Indonesia. They also have their own roaster here to make sure you get the best quality cup of coffee available as well as a specialized cupping room.
Anyone who has come to Bali for the surf scene in Uluwatu should head to the Drifter Surf Shop & Cafe which is known for its coffee that they also grind on site. Here you will find a range of brews such as Mandailing coffee from Sumatra which is one of the best sellers thanks to its deep notes and tangy flavour.
If you are in Sumatra then you will be spoilt for choice as you can get good coffee in small shops all over the island.
If you are in the capital city of North Sumatra however which is Medan then you may want to head to Partner 8 which is newly opened and is one of the leading lights on the coffee scene in this part of Indonesia. This cafe takes its coffee consumption seriously and they also work with local growers in the region and visit local farms to make sure that they serve up the best beans possible to their customers. The serve what is known as the ‘Full Sumatra’ which includes beans and coffees from the Mandailing, Karo, Kerinci and Lintong regions and they also roast and grind them on the premises so you will know that you are getting the freshest coffee possible.
If you are in Java then you really need to travel to the capital city of Jakarta if you want to see the best of the coffee shop scene in Indonesia. One of the best places to come in the city is Kopi Mank which has attracted a cult following in recent years and is known for its delicious local cups of coffee. What makes this coffee shop in Jakarta different from many others is that it tries to source its beans as locally as possible so that you know that you are also supporting the local community and farms if you buy your coffee there.
Another good pick in Jakarta is Anomali coffee which is a chain which is found all over the city and also in other cities across the archipelago including on other island such as Bali. Anomali is a great place to come if you want to try a range of Indonesian coffees in one place as they sell beans from all across the region which means that you can get a snapshot of the coffee culture in Indonesia without having to venture too far. They also sell their own coffees here which mean that you can pick up a bag of beans or ground coffee to take home with you at the end of your trip for a taste of Indonesia at home.
(from various sources0