Indonesian Coffee History
Indonesian coffee cultivation got its start with Dutch political leaders’ shipments of seedlings to the country’s capital, Jakarta, in the 1600s. The Dutch had an established trading company in the country and thus had a strong political presence. The first seedlings failed to thrive, but the second shipment was viable, and by the early 1700s the first exports totaling around 2,000 pounds were sent to Europe from Java. Indonesia was the first place, outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, where coffee was able to be cultivated on a large scale.
Some of the first exports were worth hundreds of dollars a pound, but by the end of the 18th century, prices dropped and the general population was able to consume Indonesian coffee. The first Indonesian coffee farmers were widely exploited by the Dutch East Indies government; they were forced to grow coffee and taxed in crops. A popular book published in 1860 exposed this corrupt and exploitative system and helped drastically shift Dutch popular opinion on cultivation and collection methods.
By the mid 1870s growing areas were expanded to Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, and Timor. The first crops in Sulawesi were planted around 1850, but by the late 1800s coffee rust wiped out most of Indonesia’s Arabica Typica crop.
In the 1950s, soon after Indonesia gained independence, Dutch-owned plantations were nationalized and are now managed as state-owned plantations. Today, over 90% of coffee in Indonesia is grown by small farmholders on farms that average around one hectare.
This coffee comes to us from the Rantekarua Estate in the Tana Toraja Regency in South Sulawesi (named for the indigenous Toraja people of the area). The Estate itself is owned by Sulotco Jaya Abadi, which has a major processing plant nearby. Though it may be relatively close, the road between the Estate and the processing facility is extremely rough and remote. The owners of the Estate work to maintain the road for local travel and invest in construction projects for the community.