Indonesia, a country made up of a series of islands, is one of the most prolific coffee-growing countries globally. The history of coffee growing in this country goes back to the 17th century.
Thanks to its particular climate and geography -which is ideal for growing coffee of the highest quality- made it an instant sensation. If you’ve ever heard the expression “a cup of java,”— that’s Java, one of Indonesia’s main islands. Sumatran coffee, also internationally regarded as great coffee, also gets its name from Sumatra, another of Indonesia’s islands.
There is a smaller but just as important island that deserves more recognition: Sulawesi.
Also known as the island of Celebes, this is an incredibly mountainous island. It’s even got active volcanoes! This is very important, as high altitudes and ancient volcanic soil are two of the most important conditions if you want to grow specialty-grade coffee. The ancient volcanic soil, in particular, has the right drainage for coffee plants.
What makes this type of coffee so special is the people of Celebes. These are natives of the island, who have a rich, ancient culture and speak their own language. Far from being the typical massive operation, we have a market that works by accumulating small amounts of coffee grown by very small plantations, often consisting of one or two families.
Once you get to a certain altitude, coffee almost grows itself. Much of coffee here qualifies as wild-grown coffee, as the climate and soil let nature do its thing. In contrast, most other coffee farmers in the world need to pay close attention to their coffee plants.
As a result, Sulawesi coffee has a very distinct, rich flavor. Its flavor profile is unique: hints of spices with cardamom as cinnamon in the foreground and black pepper in the background. Subtle notes of dark chocolate and tropical fruit, too.
It’s also got very low acidity levels, much like specialty coffee, as well as a natural sweetness – a combination of qualities that makes it one of the most coveted coffees in the world.
Notable, too, is its velvety, creamy mouthfeel in conjunction with a heavy texture, making this coffee an excellent choice for pour-over brewing methods, vac pot, and espresso.
When something is scarce, its price goes up. It’s a basic dynamic. And since coffee farming in Celebes is more or less an organic process and not so organized, the amount harvested per year can sometimes vary quite a lot.
Only a mere 5% of the coffee grows on this island on large estates – the rest 95% grows independently!
This unpredictability in the amount of Sulawesi coffee available per year makes this coffee quite expensive. However, it’s relatively reasonable, given its fantastic flavor and aroma.
Even taking this into account, the amount of coffee that grows in Celebes is usually enough to satisfy market needs. Of about 640.000 tons that Indonesia produces, only about 100.000 tons are for local consumption.
Try Sulawesi coffee!