- Indonesia was the first place coffee was cultivated outside the Arabian Peninsula.
- Most of the Arabica trees in Indonesia died from coffee rust about a hundred years ago and have had to be replanted.
- Smallholder farmers still produce about 90% of the coffee in Indonesia
Coffee is probably native to Ethiopia, and was first drunk in Yemen. In the early 17th century, the Dutch brought coffee trees back to their country (the Netherlands or Holland, in case that’s confusing) and cultivated it in their greenhouses. They already had colonized Indonesia at that point in order to gain a monopoly over the spice trade, and it was known as the “Dutch East Indies”. (Exotic places like Celebes, the Spice Islands, and Batavia are all Dutch names for places currently part of Indonesia.) They decided to bring coffee out to their colonies and see if they could grow it for export. They were successful in creating a love for coffee across Europe, and thus Indonesia became the first place coffee was cultivated outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
Around the turn of the 19th century, the fate of coffee in Indonesia took a downturn when many of the Arabica trees from the Dutch were eradicated by coffee rust. Most replantings were with Robusta, which still forms 90% of the commodity coffee crop in Indonesia today.
After World War II, the Dutch were kicked out of Indonesia and the many islands under their rule joined together to become the new country of Indonesia – like America, a radical experiment in democracy. The Dutch were gone but the coffee remained as a now-permanent part of the country and its culture.
Arabica coffee grows best in mountainous regions near the equator, at between 3000 and 6000 feet of elevation, and thrives in volcanic soil – all making Indonesia one of the world’s most ideal places for growing coffee. We are based on Java, the most populous island in Indonesia – whose name has become synonomous with coffee.
Most coffee farming here is done by smallholder farmers, about 92%. Many are still doing it by hand using traditional methods.