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What coffees are available from Indonesia?

What coffees are available from Indonesia?

Coffee exports is the third in rank after timber and rubber among the agricultural products in the Republic of Indonesia. It is one of the most important commodities for the nation's economy, as it provides millions of people employment in the rural area of Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Bengkulu, Lampung, South Sulawesi, East Bali, East Java, Central Java and recently in Irian.

In Indonesia, coffee is mainly grown by hundreds of smallholders. Their acreage covers 92-94 percent of the 940,000 hectares of the coffee growing area of the country. For example, in Bali, nearly 98 percent of the total planting acreage (33,500 hectare) is cultivated by smallholders.

Arabica coffee was first bought into Java, Indonesia by the Dutch in 1699. Then, it was known as "Java Coffee." In 1878, Hemileia Vastatrix B & Br, a disease that became epidemic in Java, devastated all the Arabica plants in Java in a short time. Robusta was then introduced, as it is a more robust and sturdy plant.

Arabica plants are usually grown in highlands. In Indonesia, Arabica grows well in areas that are approximately 1000M or more above sea-level. It is therefore found in most of the mountainous areas in Central Aceh, Dairi (North Sumatra), Tana Toraja (South Sulawesi), Ijen (East Java) and Kintamani (Bali). Robusta has been grown in these areas as well; but AECI (Association of Exporters Coffee Indonesia) hopes that it will soon be substituted by Arabicas.

The quality of Indonesian coffee is variable from harvest to harvest and batch to batch. Most of the beans from smallholders are not uniform in size. This is often due to berries that are not selectively picked. Instead, riped and unriped berries (red and green respectively) are picked at the same time. Frequently, farmers would immediately process the berries. This brings about broken beans from the unripened berries.

Also, berries are often dried on sandy grounds. Sand and small rocks would be collected together with the beans. This contributed to the triacels in the bag of coffee. The quality of the coffee is affected but the cash in-flow of the farmers is increased. The low quality is also a result of bad pruning, harvesting and processing techniques, lack of fertilizers, pest and disease control. AECI is currently providing aids to the smallholders to improve on techniques. It is also emphasizing the importance of good quality coffee for export.

The Island of Sumatra

ACEH: The province of Aceh is at the northern tip of Sumatra. It produces Arabica and Robusta coffee in the highlands. The Arabicas in Aceh are dark green in color. It is cleaner in the sense that it has less membrane on the beans. It is larger in size and the percentage of triacel is lower. Arabicas from Aceh is considered "pure as it is seldom mixed with Robusta. Whereas in Lintong beans, Robusta is usually found with the Arabicas. This is because the Arabica trees in Aceh are planted in a region separated from the Robustas.

Gayo is a mountainous area in Central Aceh. A Dutch company has joint investment with the Indonesian government to process the Arabicas from Gayo Mountain to produce WIB Arabica beans of good quality. This is known as the Gayo coffee. Gayo coffee is very popular with the Japanese. It is recognized for its smooth taste and good aroma.

NORTHERN SUMATRA: Northern Sumatra province has been famous for its production of Arabica coffee, ie. Mandheling. The total area of coffee plantations is approximately 48,000 hc. This area yields 20,000 tons/year, but a large percentage is Robusta coffee.

The major areas for coffee plantations are found in the country of Dairi (about 16,000 hc), Northern Tapanuli (11,000 hc), Southern Taanuli (6,000 hc), Simalungun, Tanh Karo, Deli Serdang, Langkat and Nias. These are mountainous areas of at least 1000 M above sea-level.

Arabicas from these areas are of good quality. Originally, the famous Mandheling coffee comes from the Lintong mountains around the areas of Doloksanggul and Siborongborong (in Tapanuli).

Many people are confused with Lintong, Mandheling, DP Arabica and Boengi Coffee. The truth is all these are terms for the same type of coffee, ie. the Arabicas from the central part of Northern Sumatra. The Arabicas from the areas of northern parts of Sumatra are of about the same quality. In recent years, exporters give these beans the general name of Mandheling. Furthermore, many exporters said that to the Japanese, these Arabicas are known as Mandheling: to the Europeans it is DP Arabica or the Boengi style: to the Americans it is Mandheling. Lintong was seldom used, but, it means the same.

To the locals, the beans from Lintong is still the better coffee. However, it is typical that beans from Lintong noticably come with a lot of attached membrane. Some robusta beans are also found among the Arabicas. This is because some Robusta trees grow in the Arabica areas. When one of the farmers was asked why did they not get rid of the membrane to make the coffee look better, he argued that if the beans do not come with the membrane, then people would not think that the eans are from Lintong. He said that it is a characteristic of Lintong beans to have their membrane still attached.

In the southern half of Sumatra, only Robusta is produced. Padang (West Sumatra), Bengkul and Lampung, are the main areas for the production of Robusta.

The production period for Arabicas: Sidikalang (Dairi) --Dec/Feb

Takengon (Aceh) --Mar/May

Lintong (Tapanuli) --Feb/Apr

Production period for Robusta: generally May/Dec.
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Author:Piupin Yen
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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