The Origin of Indonesian Coffee

By jochristiehuang - October 02, 2021

 a cup of coffee coffee beans roasted beans

Located in the bean belt just south of the equator, Indonesia is geographically ideal for growing coffee. Warm climate, mountainous regions, and volcanic soil produce rich flavour and good quality coffee.

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Coffee cultivation in Indonesia began in the late 1600s during Dutch colonial period. The first coffee arrived in Batavia (now Jakarta) from Yemen. It was Arabica coffee and was sent by the Dutch governor in Malabar, India. Initially planted around Batavia but failed due to flood. The second attempt used coffee seedlings from Malabar and it was successfully grown, starting the spread of coffee plantations in Java Island and making Indonesia the first place, outside Arabia and Ethiopia, where coffee was widely cultivated.

In 1711 the first exports were sent from Java to Europe through the Dutch trading company, VOC (Verininging Oogst Indies Company). In the late 1800s, the Dutch colonist established large arabica plantations on Ijen Plateau, eastern Java. But in 1876 leaf rust swept through Indonesia, ravaged particularly the lower altitudes and wiped out the cultivar of arabica. Robusta coffee, which is more resistant to leaf rust and suitable to be planted in the lowlands, was then cultivated as a substitute.

For years, coffee cultivation continued to grow rapidly in Indonesia and generated hefty income for the Netherlands. The Dutch then expanded coffee plantations in other parts of Indonesia such as Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi and Timor. At the same time as the Dutch coffee expansion, the Portuguese began to grow a different cultivar of arabica on East Timor and Flores.

traditional roasted beans

There are 6 categories of arabica coffee in Indonesia:

Typica - the original cultivar introduced by the Dutch. Unfortunately, most of typica cultivar was lost during the leaf rust pestilence. In spite of that, typica varieties of Bergandal and Sidikalang can still be found in Sumatra.

Hibrido de Timor (HDT) – a natural cross between arabica and robusta, also known as “Tim Tim”.  It was first found in a plantation of cultivar Typica in Timor Island in 1917. It was then first collected in East Timor in 1978 and was planted in Aceh in 1979.

Linie S – originated from India, developed from the Bourbon cultivar. The most common are S-288 and S-795, and can be found in Lintong, Aceh, Flores and Papua.

Ethiopian lines - were brought to Java in 1928. Then, this variety including Rambung and Abyssinia were cultivated in Aceh as well. The Ethiopian lines variety was later developed in Sumatra and Flores, which was known as "USDA", after the United States government project carried out in Indonesia.

Caturra cultivars - Caturra is a natural mutation of Bourbon variety, which originated in Brazil.  Various lines of the coffee-leaf-rust-resistant Timor Hybrid were crossed with Caturra to produce a dwarf plant with rust resistance.

Catimor lines – a cross between Caturra and Hibrido de Timor. It has poor flavour, but further research is being conducted on this variety as locally adapted Catimor in Aceh has excellent characteristics.

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