Jakarta. Coffee is big business in Indonesia — we’re the world’s third-largest producer and exporter in the world — but it was only recently that we started celebrating our products locally. With a spate of new cafes (and coffee snobs) specializing in the homegrown beans, we break down the characteristics of each region’s beans for you, so you’ll know what’s in your cup the next time you go out for a latte.
Before we even dive into regions, know that coffee beans come in Arabica and Robusta varieties. Arabica beans are more expensive on the global market thanks to their milder taste and they have a whopping 70 percent less caffeine than the Robusta variety.
Luwak, ‘the world’s most expensive coffee’
Probably the most famous coffee in the world, luwak coffee is produced by civets who eat the coffee cherries then, ahem, pass, the beans. The trip through the digestive system complete with stomach acids is said to produce a rich and unique flavor that is highly prized. The going price is around $600 per pound!
Now on to the good stuff …
The island of Bali is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to producing coffee in Indonesia. First off, they grow primarily Robusta. Then when it comes to processing, Balinese farmers and producers prefer a wet method, unlike the rest of the archipelago. The wet method involves removing the coffee fruit flesh from the bean before the bean is dried. This gives Bali beans a brighter, more fruity flavor.
Sumatra coffee beans, usually Arabica, have a very strong and distinct flavor. Naturally the beans are very earthy, spicy and some even say mushroomy in flavor. Then that flavor is amplified by roasting the beans darker. This is definitely not a cuppa coffee for the fainthearted.
Coffee from this region is quite popular around the around world (Fun fact: Japan has taken a real shine to it), although Toraja produces lower crop yields than other areas in Indonesia, making it a bit more rare. Coffee drinkers praise beans from South Sulawesi’s Toraja region for its crisp and refreshing taste, silky body and smooth finish.
Aceh is known for growing excellent Arabica beans and accounts for 40 percent of Indonesia’s total coffee haul. It is also home to Gayo beans, also known as “green coffee beans” thanks to their unique color and the fact that the farmers grow them organically under the shade of trees (talk about high maintenance!). The taste of Gayo beans is lighter and high-bodied.
Speaking of shade-growing, say hello to Papua coffee beans. The beans are grown organically here and are covered by shady treats and then wet-processed. This winning combination results in a coffee that is mild, clean-tasting, well-balanced and slightly sweet with a fruity aroma.
Taking flavor notes and profiles from everywhere, Flores coffee beans have a satisfying flavor profile. The medium-bodied brew has a bittersweet chocolate taste with hints of citrus to lighten up its heavy, thick and syrupy feel. The light citrus note also helps give it a clean finish.