Indonesia produces a significant amount of coffee. It is the fourth biggest coffee producer in the world, with only Brazil, Colombia and Vietnam having a larger output. In fact, it produces more coffee than Ethiopia, even though that country is more well-known in the mainstream coffee industry.
Indonesia exports about seven million 60kg bags of coffee per year, and produces several different varieties of coffee, although until recently there was little distinction made between the exports.
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Popular Coffees from Indonesia
For a long time, coffee produced in Indonesia was simply referred to as Lintong or Mandheling, with no importance being placed on the characteristics or the origin of the coffees. Traditionally, Indonesia is associated with Sumatran coffees that have a distinctive earthy and mushroomy taste. However, there is so much more to coffees from Indonesia. Some of the best examples of Indonesian coffees are clean and bright with some complex herbal flavours, and have a body and weight that is on a par with that of some of the best Kenyan and Colombian coffees.
Sumatra has two crops each year. The fly crop is harvested in May – June, and the main crop is harvested in September – October.
The Indonesian Coffee Industry
Most Indonesian coffee growers are smallholders with farms between one and three hectares in size. Coffee is rarely the only crop that is grown on those smallholdings, but it is the biggest income provider for around five million Indonesians. The smallholders usually work alone, with estates being incredibly rare and even co-ops being uncommon. This is unusual for a country that produces so much coffee.
The coffee is almost always hand pulped at the farm, although there are a handful of smallholders that do use machines. Some growers sell the pulped coffee at markets, while others deliver it, still wet, to a nearby collection station. The semi-prepared coffee is sold at prices that are very high compared to prices in Africa and Latin America, but the coffee is traceable to village, if not smallholding, level.
While the coffee growers do not work in co-operatives, the mills are better represented, with networks that purchase both partially and fully dried parchment and greens that have been prepared to various degrees. One thing that is particularly interesting about the way that processors in Indonesia work is that they have developed some hulling machines that can mill parchment up to 18% wet. This is what is thought to produce the iconic blue/green colour that so many of the finest Indonesian lots have.
Coffees produced in Indonesia can be quite variable in quality, but there are good quality control procedures in place. The coffee is graded at the moment of picking, and all coffee pickers are paid at least the national minimum wage. Many farms offer performance related bonuses, so everyone who works in the coffee industry has the chance of making a decent living, and this means that they are well invested in the industry and take pride in the coffee that they produce.