Your complete guide to Indonesian coffee beans
Joining Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, Indonesia is one of the largest coffee producers in the world. Its cluster of islands, located in Southeast Asia between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, produce a notably wide variety of exciting flavours to suit a range of preferences. Whether you’re after a heavy-bodied savoury brew or crave a sweet, fruity roast, you’re sure to find a coffee you love from Indonesia.
If you’re looking to learn more about this coffee-producing region and its unique islands, culture and history, check out our coffee lovers guide to Indonesia below.
Indonesian coffee history: a brief overview
Indonesia’s coffee history got off to a bad start. The country’s first seedlings, delivered in 1696 to the Governor of Jakarta, a prominent figure of the Dutch East Indies, were lost in a flood. Luckily a second shipment, sent by the Dutch Governor of Malabar in 1699, flourished and large Arabica plantations were cultivated on Javanese soil.
Under the control of the Dutch East India Company, the country’s coffee trade took off at the turn of the 18th century. To match a surge in demand, by the mid-1800s, coffee production spread from Java to the islands of Bali, Timor, Sumatra and Sulawesi.
Until around 1876, Indonesia's coffee industry only produced Arabica coffee. However, widespread leaf rot (Hemileia vastatrix) forced many growers to switch to the more robust, disease-resistant Robusta plant, and by the 1920s, Robusta had become the most popular type of coffee in the country. To this day Indonesia still produces more Robusta than Arabica beans.
When Indonesia gained independence in the 1950s, coffee plantations were nationalised and managed under the government body Perusahaan Terbatas Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN). Today more than 90% of the coffee from Indonesia is produced by small farms, each totalling between one to two hectares. These farms receive help from the PTPN who aim to boost growth and quality through funding and initiatives.
Indonesian coffee characteristics
As well as being one of the world's largest coffee growing regions, Indonesia also produces a huge variety of flavours, including flavours of cocoa, cedarwood, earth and tobacco. This diversity makes the country an incredibly exciting region for coffee lovers to explore.
There are a few different reasons for this great variety in flavour profiles, including:
- Types of coffee production: Today, many Indonesian coffee roasters and growers opt for Robusta coffee over Arabica coffee. While there are always exceptions in each category, Robusta beans tend to have very little acidity and serve up intense, woody flavours. These characteristics are perfect for those who love strong coffee, espressos or like to blend their coffees. By contrast, Arabica coffee tends to have higher acidity content with typically soft, sweet and fruity flavours, as well as a smoother aftertaste.
- Varieties of Arabica: There are over 20 different varieties of Arabica plants cultivated in Indonesia. These can be grouped into six main categories - Typica, Caturra, Catimor, Hibrido de Timor, Limie S and Ethiopian varieties. Each of these plants will produce a distinct bean, influencing the flavour of a roast.
- Geography and growing conditions: As we'll explore in more detail below, Indonesia is made up of a cluster of growing regions each with their own micro-climates. The island of Java has a different terroir compared to Sumatra or Sulawesi, so the tasting notes you'll get from a Java coffee will differ considerably compared to a Sumatra coffee or Sulawesi coffee.
Where do Indonesian coffee beans come from?
Indonesia has five main coffee growing regions - the island of Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Bali and Flores.
Coffee production on the island of Java has been shaped by the country’s history of colonialism and the region is home to the largest plantations in the country. Although you’ll find some Java coffee farms in the West, production is mainly focused on the volcanic Ijen Plateau in East Java. Here, coffee plants grow at high altitudes of around 1,400 meters above sea level.
Unlike Java, Sulawesi is made up of a large number of small coffee farms rather than large plantations. Sulawesi coffee of the Arabica variety is mostly grown in the lush tropical surroundings of Tana Toraja.
Sumatra has three main coffee regions - Aceh in the North, the island of Mangkuraja and the stunning Lake Toba. More often than not, Sumatra coffee is a blend of beans from these three regions, so Sumatra coffees are a beautiful mix of a range of varieties. Our rare Kopi Luwak and Blue Sumatra coffee are examples of the finest Sumatran coffees Indonesia has to offer.
Balinese coffee production mostly takes place high above sea level between the island’s Batukaru and Agung volcanoes. Farmers here tend to rely on traditional methods of coffee cultivation, incorporating philosophical beliefs of "Tri Hita Karana". This Hindu belief system strongly advocates respect for the environment, which is why Bali is also known for its organic coffee scene.
The small island of Flores has a mix of active and dormant volcanoes, which provides coffee trees with growth-enhancing, nutrient-rich soils. Although a relative newcomer to the Indonesian coffee industry, coffee from this region has quickly earned itself an excellent reputation.
Giling Basah is one of the main reasons why Indonesian coffees are so unique. Giling Basah is a widely-used, traditional practice which combines both washed and natural processes of separating coffee cherries from their flesh. This traditional post-harvest method is said to create Indonesian coffee beans with low acidity that produce a full-bodied cup with delicious earthy, woody and herbal notes.
The best Indonesian coffee
Among the 100 speciality roasts we sell at Coffee Direct, we have a unique range of varieties showcasing Indonesia’s finest coffees.
Our single-origin and blended Indonesian coffees are fresh roasted (we only roast your beans when you place an order) and available in bags of whole bean or pre-ground beans. Ground coffee options are available for any popular brewing methods such as cafetiere, percolator, espresso machine and filter devices.
Check out our most popular Indonesia roasts below.
This luxurious specialty coffee (also known as civet coffee) is one of the most sought-after and exclusive coffees in the world. Our Kopi Luwak beans are ethically sourced from natural, non-farmed sources in Sumatra and when brewed, give you an incredibly smooth cup with low acidity, no bitterness and notes of caramel and dark chocolate.
“Couldn't ask for a better cup of coffee than this. Excellent flavour and smell with a smooth taste. I will definitely be buying more.”
Graham J. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Mocha Java blend is one of the world’s most famous blends. This well-known coffee combines Arabica beans from Java and Yemen. The Java bean is created using a special preparation process, which involves the quick transportation of ripe cherries to mills where their pulp is fermented and washed off. This post-harvest process results in a sweet bean, which complements the natural dark chocolate flavours of the Mocha bean.
When paired together you get a really well-balanced cup. Our dark roast, for example, will give you beautiful hints of fruit, spice and chocolate.
“I’ve been looking for a long time to find an everyday favourite coffee, and this is perfect. A great balance of flavours.”
Carolyn T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Another customer favourite is this gorgeous Indonesia blend. The roast combines monsoon-washed beans with Ling Tong Sumatra beans. The monsoon beans are exposed to heavy winds and rainfall, causing them to lose much of their acidity and produce a lovely mellow flavour. When combined with the Ling Tong beans, you get a velvety, savoury and earthy brew with rich fruit flavours and a smoky aftertaste.
This is the perfect coffee for after a meal, particularly to complement a sweet dessert. The intense flavours of this dark roast work well as an espresso, as well as strong filter coffees.
“One of my favourite blends from Coffee Direct, a distinctive, strong yet smooth flavour with no hint of bitterness.”
Mike D. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you like your coffee strong, look no further than this intense Indonesian roast. Hailing from Sumatra, Indonesia’s second-largest island, these beans are regarded as some of the country’s finest. Expect a full-bodied cup that is smooth and aromatic with little acidity and hints of spiciness. This coffee works equally well as a cafetiere, filter or espresso serve.
“I have been searching for a perfect coffee and have found it in Blue Sumatra.”
Maureen H. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This popular blend brings together Indonesian Java and Brazilian Santos beans to create a strong, flavoursome coffee. The strong, slightly sweet Java beans pair beautifully with the light body and low acidity of the Santos beans, resulting in a wonderfully balanced, indulgent brew.
With their intense flavours, these beans make the perfect espresso, however, they also work well as a base in filter or cafetiere brews.
“Java Santos makes the best coffee we have found. It is a good punchy flavour, smells divine from the moment we open the bag of beans and makes all the coffee drinkers in the house happy!”
Locket W. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What is Indonesian civet cat coffee?
Kopi Luwak (sometimes referred to by the glamorous title ‘Indonesian civet cat poop coffee') translates as coffee (Kopi) and civet (Luwak). The civet is an Indonesian animal that eats coffee beans. Growers collect cherries when they are partially digested and excreted by the civet, and then clean, process and roast them.
When purchasing Kopi Luwak beans, you must always ensure that your chosen coffee brands use ethical practices. Our Kopi Luwak for example is a speciality coffee sourced only from natural, non-farmed sources in Sumatra.
Why is Kopi Luwak from Indonesia expensive coffee?
The nature of Kopi Luwak coffee means it’s incredibly rare and difficult to source. Coffee farmers must track down wild civets and forage for their semi-digested beans. This requires more time and labour compared to standard harvesting practices of picking or stripping beans from a plant.
What do people drink in Indonesian coffee shops?
Coffee culture varies from island to island but generally, coffee in Indonesia is taken black with sugar. Traditional Indonesian coffee shops sometimes mix spices into their brews. For example ‘kopi bumbu' is a delicious blend of cinnamon, clove, cardamom and sugar.
Where can I buy the best Indonesian coffee beans?
At Coffee Direct we sell a unique range of high-quality specialty coffees from Indonesia's islands. These include single-origin and blends from Java, and Sumatra, such as Smokey Joe’s, Mocha Java, Blue Sumatra and the rare, world-famous, Kopi Luwak.