Finding a comforting connection in Indonesia’s coffee culture
INDONESIA’S thriving coffee trade is evident in its growing thirst for coffee, resulting in hundreds of independent coffee shops and roasters popping up across the archipelago and a rise in consumption of beans.
In fact, the word java, which is a popular synonym for coffee, originated for the island of Java.
Where did this influence come from and what are its origins?
Indonesia’s geographically strategic Sunda Kelapa port, which sits at the mouth of the Ciliwung river, connected Indonesia to the rest of the world. This made it easy for coffee to arrive at the archipelago in the 1600s.
But it was not until the past decade that coffee consumption in Indonesia boomed, doubling as young Indonesians returned from Australia and the US where they went to study, bringing with them their coffee habits.
Today, it is one of the world’s largest coffee exporters after Brazil and Vietnam, with plantations spreading from the Aceh province to Papua on the most eastern point.
I Kadek Edi, a coffee roaster, barista, educator and one of the first Balinese coffee-makers to achieve the gold standard SCAA Q Grader qualification, touched base with us ahead of The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018, where he will be speaking at The Kitchen: Coffee Conversation.
In speaking about the first time he discovered his love for coffee, Edi said, “I’ve been inspired by coffee since 2010, when I was working at Seniman. Through working there, I learned to roast/brew good coffee for myself and the customers.”
Edi is also the co-founder of Karana Spesialis Kopi, a boutique coffee producer and processor in Mas, Ubud, exporting specialty green coffee beans from Bali and Flores.
“There are so many islands in Indonesia, each with a different name, and the coffee from these destinations – such as Sumatra, Sulawesi, Java, Bali – each has its own distinctive taste.”
“In Indonesia, people usually drink in the coffee in the mornings or afternoons. Not many people drink coffee in the evenings because they’re worried about not being able to sleep at night. In other countries, however, people seem to drink coffee at any time.”
Of course, it goes without saying that the country has seen an exponential growth in recent years. From the at times controversial kopi luwak (civet coffee, said to be the world’s most expensive coffee) to the strong and sweet Java coffee, to the robust Sumatran brew, the choices are endless.
“Indonesians and Indonesian coffee have grown up so much. Indonesians used to always drink coffee with sugar but these days, we are able to brew black coffee that still tastes sweet even without any sugar.”
On the question of the common misconceptions about the coffee culture, Edi shared, “Coffee is not expensive. If you want good coffee, it will likely come at a price.”
Travelers would be pleased to find a comforting connection with Indonesia’s coffee culture and a sense of familiarity even if they are miles away from home. “There are so many different levels of acidity, so many tastes, and even flavors such as jackfruit, dark chocolate, and more.”
“It is all about what you want to drink. But if we can make coffee that can be accepted by just about anyone, local or foreign, that is the best coffee, in my opinion.”
Finally, ahead of his session at The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018, Edi revealed, “I hope the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will come back every year. I believe that giving people inspiration and encouraging them to read and write is very good and important.”
“So many writers and readers come together for this festival. And we will also be there too so don’t miss it.”
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
It was first conceived by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.