In Search of Indonesia’s Best Coffee

  • Malabar Mountain's farm manager, Camat, shows off one of the tools of his trade, a parang, or machete.

    Malabar Mountain's farm manager, Camat, shows off one of the tools of his trade, a parang, or machete.

  • Getting around the coffee-growing highlands is best done in Klasik Beans' Land Rover.

    Getting around the coffee-growing highlands is best done in Klasik Beans' Land Rover.

  • Facilities at the Malabar Mountain coffee plantation, on the forested slopes of West Java's Mount Puntang.

    Facilities at the Malabar Mountain coffee plantation, on the forested slopes of West Java's Mount Puntang.

  • Coffee cherries ready for processing.

    Coffee cherries ready for processing.

  • Coffee and Sundanese snacks start the day at the Klasik Beans farm near Garut.

    Coffee and Sundanese snacks start the day at the Klasik Beans farm near Garut.

  • Klasik Beans' founder Eko Purnomowidi flashes a smile in front of woven bamboo baskets used for collecting coffee cherries.

    Klasik Beans' founder Eko Purnomowidi flashes a smile in front of woven bamboo baskets used for collecting coffee cherries.

  • The sun rising over terraced coffee fields in the mountains of Garut regency, West Java.

    The sun rising over terraced coffee fields in the mountains of Garut regency, West Java.

  • A farmer at work in his field near Panawuan village, Garut.

    A farmer at work in his field near Panawuan village, Garut.

  • Beans before and after roasting on display at the Malabar Mountain plantation.

    Beans before and after roasting on display at the Malabar Mountain plantation.

  • Arief Said and Andrew Tang, co-founders of Morph Coffee, at one Fifteenth.

    Arief Said and Andrew Tang, co-founders of Morph Coffee, at one Fifteenth.

  • Lia Gunawan, owner of Jakarta coffee shop One Fifteenth Coffee.

    Lia Gunawan, owner of Jakarta coffee shop One Fifteenth Coffee.

  • Doddy, a barista at One Fifteenth in Jakarta.

    Doddy, a barista at One Fifteenth in Jakarta.

  • Sunday cupping sessions and industrial-chic design have made One Fifteenth on eof Jakarta's top coffee haunts.

    Sunday cupping sessions and industrial-chic design have made One Fifteenth on eof Jakarta's top coffee haunts.

Click image to view full size

I am on the side of a Balinese volcano looking for a red jeep. Its owner, I Wayan Arca, is taking me to see his family’s hillside coffee farm in Kintamani, about an hour’s drive northeast of Ubud. My driver spots the vehicle before me, and we caravan to the summit of Kintamani together, Arca’s jeep never out of sight through the winding bends and switchbacks. The climb takes us through roads shaded by dewy vegetation until suddenly the mountains open up before me, and I can see a single road leading down through the steeply terraced fields.

Arca is the bar manager at Meyrick’s Mamasan restaurant, but his family business is coffee. It was years before he revealed this fact to Meyrick, who had fortuitously just returned from visiting Eko’s farms in Sunda. Neither knew of the other’s aligning interests at the time.

The beans grown in Kintamani—a cross between Arabica and Robusta strains—have been the bread money of the community for more than three decades. Villagers also grow oranges on their land because of the lucrative harvest, but coffee remains their key crop.

“So, this is the farm,” Arca tells me with a grin when we finally arrive. “Sometimes I have visitors who don’t even know what a coffee plant looks like.”

We walk through the fields past alternating stands of orange trees and coffee plants, with Arca pointing out his healthy, stout bushes. He tells me that he hopes to begin selling his beans to Klasik Beans soon, once he gets the quality up. Eko has already visited his farm and shared some growing techniques with him.

Our walk eventually takes us to a small farmyard teeming with pigs, chickens, dogs, and a skinny cow. An elderly couple approaches us and Arca introduces them as longtime family friends. Between my limited Indonesian and their local dialect, we don’t get further than introductions. But a grin goes a long way in these parts, and they insist we stay for a cup of coffee. The wife busies herself with preparation while Arca sits down to chat with the husband.

Soon enough the wife comes back with two small glasses of kopi tubruk, a dark, course-ground coffee made in the traditional Indonesian way. The bottom is murky with raw grounds. I inhale deeply and smell the coffee, the rich soil, and the citrus. It starts to rain as we drink. Arca and I hurriedly gulp the rest down, but our hosts won’t let us leave until I promise to come back and visit them again some day.

Share this Article