In other news, I went to Indonesia in July. Coffee is done very differently there than in Central America, where I've traveled the most. The history of coffee in Indonesia is pretty deep as well, having some of the earliest coffee history outside of Ethiopia and Yemen. The first seedlings of the coffee plant that grew were brought by the Dutch (Indonesia was then a dutch colony) in 1699, and about ten years later the first coffee was exported from Java by the Dutch East India Company to Europe. The beginnings of coffee in Indonesia was all Arabica, but now that makes up for about 25% of production, since much of it was wiped out by coffee leaf rust in the late 1800s. Some of the coffee trees we saw in Java were the Typica variety that could very possibly be some of the oldest strains of Typica, the original variety brought by the Dutch. Cool. The majority of production out of Indonesia is now Robusta as well as hybrids like "Tim-Tim" (Hibrido de Timor) and Ateng (Catimor).
Our time was spent in west Java and in Toraja, Sulawesi. Both very beautiful and amazing places. Dogwood hasn't sourced much coffee from Indonesia in the past, but we have bought coffee from PT Toarco Jaya in Toraja, Sulawesi through both Cafe Imports and Sweet Maria's/Coffee Shrub two years in a row. (Last year crop was at about 30% for them, so coffee was only exported to Japan.) Toarco has always been a favorite, and it's got a unique flavor profile, in my opinion--generally pretty sweet, bright and floral (in an indo kind of way) with plenty of savory notes like cilantro and tomato and sage. It's also a really interesting coffee to roast, with a development and finish appearance unlike many other coffees. I remember it being one of the first coffees that really threw me off when I was trying to figure out how to roast three years ago. It will be fun to get back into it when we get this coffee in a few months.
All the coffees we saw were fully washed, both in Java and Sulawesi and not the traditional Giling Basah or "wet-hulled" method, where the coffee is stripped of the parchment layer when the coffee is about 30ish percent moisture content. This is particularly common in Sumatra, and much of the "earthy" or similar notes that people attribute to Sumatran coffees are a result of this process. The coffee is left out to finish its drying down to 11-12% totally exposed (no protective parchment layer) and therefore much more susceptible to absorbing flavors and aromas around it (dirt... etc.) Anywho-- even with all of the washed coffee I saw and careful processing and sorting after drying, I was still sort of amazed that some of this coffee gets to us at the level of quality it does. I'm much more used to seeing a farm system, (rather than a collector system) where the cherry being picked is all being overseen, carefully sorted, and immediately brought to the mill and processed and then dried in a relatively controlled environment. Or, even if it is a collector system, farmers deliver cherry and the processing is done centrally. In this system, there's hundreds of people picking tiny amounts, pulping and drying it (at least part of the way....) themselves by hand and then it's be toted around in bags at 40% moisture content and everything seems so unstable. It also seems to rain a lot there, and they just deal with it. This isn't the case for every coffee of course, it just reminded me of how many different ways coffee is produced around the world, and how many things can go wrong, and how many things still seem to go right a pretty good amount of the time.
I also spent a couple of days at the beach after the coffee part of the trip. The vacation was nice, but I've decided I don't like salt water, except for all the edible things that live in it--I love those things very much.
Here's a few pics, but please check out our new flickr page for more pictures. There are also some pictures from other trips. The oldest ones are first in the photostream so refer the sections on the side for specific trips. Also you can see that my photography seems to get increasingly better as time passes. I attribute that to my recently acquired fancy digital camera.