Asia And The Pacific
Posted by ANDREW MORSE
Baba Budan is widely believed to have smuggled the first fertile coffee seeds out of Arabia and into India during his pilgrimage to Mecca in around 1600. However the real growth of coffee in trade outside of Arabia started with the Dutch. In 1699, the Dutch successfully planted the first coffee plants outside of the Arabian Peninsula on the island of Java, once a colony and now a part of Indonesia. The first harvest was sent to Amsterdam in 1706 along with a seedling. It is this very seedling that would become the progenitor of the coffee plant that makes its way to Martinique with Gabriel Mathieu de Clieu via the botanical garden in Paris. A plant that would become the foundation for the majority of coffee in Central and South America (see The Americas).
The Dutch originated or greatly influenced coffee cultivation and trade in Indonesia and Asia. Their initial planting in Java was so successful it was second only to Mocha in Yemen. These two coffees were brought together to create the first recorded coffee blend - Mocha Java. Indeed, a common nickname for coffee today is “java,” and the Dutch hand can be felt throughout the region.
Harvest - Octbober - December 2010 Arabica Export Production = 828,726 60kg bags
Despite the early history of Bada Budan’s famous coffee seeds, India today is not well-known to the world for its coffee. Much of the country’s coffee industry has been focused on internal consumption rather than export. This changed only in the mid-1800’s via the British and recently by specialized importers generating greater awareness for these coffees. As a whole, good Indian coffees tend to be pleasingly mild and well-balanced. On the other hand, Indian Malabar or Indian Monsoon Malabar coffee reflects a drastically different profile in the cup. These coffees are dry processed and then stored in an open warehouse, exposed to monsoon air and wind for 3-4 months. This process was developed to mimic the matured or aged Java coffee that was used as ballast in sailing ships. Their exposure to salt and wood imparted a unique flavor that was sharp, tangy and spicy with low acidity.
2010 Arabica Export Production = 792,327 60kg bags
Indonesia is an archipelago state - the world’s largest, encompassing a land area almost three times the size of Texas. Systematically colonized by the Dutch in the 17th century and later occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the islands finally gained official independence from the Dutch in 1949. It is the 4th largest producer of coffee in the world, and several distinct growing areas are known world-wide for their exceptional coffee.
The Dutch arrived relatively late to the island in 1906. Faced with superior forces marching onto the island, Bali’s royal family and loyalists demonstrated their last act of defiance in a mass ritual suicide known as Puputan. The Dutch faced little other resistance and quickly assumed administrative control of the island. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II and now a part of Indonesia, Bali has suffered throughout its history despite its picturesque surroundings. Agriculture and tourism are the main drivers of the economy, although tourism decreased greatly after the 2002 and 2005 terrorist bombings and has yet to fully recover a decade later. With respect to coffee, Bali presents a classic cup with great body. The majority of the coffee is wet-processed. It exhibits the unmistakable earth notes of many Indonesian coffees but with balance and mildness that is special.
In the 19th century, Java experienced a devastating outbreak of rust disease that virtually wiped out the historic coffee industry. The recovery consisted of replacing much of the original Coffea Arabica with disease-resistant Robusta fundamentally altering the coffee tradition begun by the Dutch. However, the Indonesian government has set up sponsored estates that have revived the Dutch practices even to go so far as using the original, well-maintained equipment. These coffees can be quite exceptional.
This island was formerly known by its Dutch colonial name, Celebes. The majority of specialty coffee comes from the Toraja region in the country’s southeastern highlands. A significant portion of the coffee grown, especially by small famers, is processed using a wet-hull method, known as Giling Basah or literally “wet grinding.” Used throughout Indonesia, farmers remove the outer skin from the cherries and store the beans still covered in mucilage for up to a day. The beans are removed, washed of their mucilage, and partially dried in the sun to 30-35% moisture. The beans are then hulled by the processor in this semi-wet state. This process plays an integral part in the flavor profile and results in a full-bodied, low-acid coffee with mild earth tones.
Sumatra is arguably one of the best-known, specialty coffees in the world. The finest Sumatra is rich, full and complex with low acidity. Flavor notes include mild earth tones, cocoa and tobacco. As is the case with much of the small farm, grown Indonesian coffees, the wet-hull, Giling Basah process is typical. Much of the flavor and characteristics of Sumatran coffee is attributable to this unique method. Sumatra is often labeled and sold as Sumatra Mandheling. In this case “Mandheling” does not refer to a particular region but to an ethnic group that was once a prominent participant in the island’s coffee trade.
Papua New Guinea
2010 Arabica Export Production = 921,391 60kg bags
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is half an island. It occupies the eastern half, while Irian Jaya, an Indonesian province, occupies the western half. PNG coffees tend to have less of the earthy tones for which Indonesian coffees are prized but can be delicate and uniquely bright for the region. Most coffees are estate coffees that are meticulously wet-processed. Whether from an estate or small farms, organic certification is prevalent.
2010 Arabica Export Production = 41,106 60kg bags
After achieving a costly independence from Indonesia in the late 1990’s, international aid helped rebuild a renown coffee industry. The results have been mixed, but improving rapidly. When good, coffees from Timor reflect the well-known Indonesian flavor profile - that is they can produce exceptional coffee.