With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the most diverse coffee origins in terms of geographical and cultural diversity. Coffee has been at the center of trade ever since the Dutch planted the first seeds in the late 1600s.
Every region has developed its own style of production and has its own set of coffee varieties. The most well known regions for specialty coffee are North Sumatra, South-Sulawesi, West-Java, Flores and East-Timor. Robusta is mostly grown in South Sumatra in Lampung, Bengkulu, and Palembang
Indonesia as a whole has known big fluctuations in terms of production volume with 2016 being a recent high, while 2017 was a historic low. Additionally, the exchange rate of the US dollar with the Indonesian Rupiah shows significant fluctuation, making it a difficult trade for coffee exporters. Sometimes an exporter makes a loss because of the time lapse and fluctuation of the market between signing the contract and sending the bill of laden.
In general, farms are in between 1-5 hectares and usually grow other vegetables alongside coffee plants. Quite a lot of NGO’s and export-import companies are active in mostly Medan and Java. Apart from the export market (6,891,000 bags in 2016/17) the local coffee scene is booming, especially in Bandung and Jakarta. Roasters are buying high-end specialty and producers start to roast and sell locally as well. Consumption of coffee in Indonesia has almost doubled between 2008 and 2018. This is mostly due to the young Indonesians who attended university abroad and were influenced by those countries’ coffee habits. Ironically, due to rising demand in Indonesia for specialty coffee, a large amount of exported coffee is being shipped abroad, processed and then returned to Indonesia under international brands like Starbucks, Coffee Bean (Singaporean) and Segafredo (Italian) to be sold at worldwide prices.
‘Giling Basah:’ Wet-Hulled Coffee Processing
Wet hulling is a way of processing that is unique to Indonesia. Most likely it originated in Lintong in the late 1970s and beginning 1980s. The main reason is that producers saw it as a way of getting quick cash selling their crop to the local coffee mill. Another reason is the difficult drying conditions. On higher elevation it is humid all year round and there is inconsistent rainfall, leading to a difficulty drying in traditional ways.
A producer will pulp his cherries on site and dry them on a patio for one day until they reach around 35% moisture content. The are then moved to a collection center or straight to the hulling facility where the coffee gets hulled, dried and sorted until ready for export.
While this process has an advantage for the producer, from consumer side, it seems that it causes unstable water activity that leads to difficulties with roasting and a faster aging process. More and more producers are paying attention to this complaint by storing the coffee after a period of drying, to dry it again after.