For some reason, coffee wasn’t on my brain when visiting Indonesia. Although, an avid tea drinker, I am also quite partial to a decent cup of Joe. And despite clocking the packing on various Starbucks coffee grinds with exotic images of Sumatra or Java, I just didn’t make the connection until I was in Indonesia. So needless to say, visiting a coffee plantation wasn’t exactly what we had planned for our trip to Bali. However, it was certainly an experience I’m glad to have had.
Background on Coffee Plantations
Although the coffee scene in Bali has recently picked up on trend, coffee has been a big part of Indonesia’s history. Brought to the area by Dutch colonization in the 16th Century, the coffee industry soon began to grow to what it is today. It is mainly produced on the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Java but smaller plantations do exist elsewhere as can be seen in Bali. Large areas of natural forests were cleared to make way for coffee plantations on these islands. In Sulawesi, the mountain region was used for coffee growing. The majority of plantations grow the Arabica coffee bean, not native to the lands. Despite it’s small size, Indonesia is the 4th largest producing coffee nation in the world. However, interestingly, a third of production is consumed within the country.
Where in Bali can I find a Coffee Plantation?
Most coffee plantations can be found in the Ubud area and many great cafes are popping up in Ubud village. For more on where to go for coffee in Ubud, click here. We visited Satria Coffee Plantation as part of a day trip. It was located near Tirta Empul temple and Tegenungan waterfalls.
A Visit to a Coffee Plantation
Upon arriving at the coffee plantation we weren’t really sure what to expect. From the car park we could only see lush vegetation. However, upon entering we were guided through a small spice garden. Our tour guide pointed out various plants like cinnamon and cocoa plants. We had seen a lot of these in Sri Lanka when we visited a Spice Garden there so it was nice to recognise some of the plants again.
From there we were greeted by a young Balinese girl who showed us to the coffee roasting area. She explained how the coffee beans are dried and then roasted and finally ground. In addition, we saw coffee beans at different stages of the process and see the grinding process at work. We also observed one of the workers carefully roasting the beans over a ridiculous heat (given how hot the outside temperature was).
Near the end of the tour, we were offered a chance to grind the beans ourselves, however given the heat and at the risk of looking feeble, we declined and let the experts handle it!
The final part of the tour was sampling the tea and coffee from the plantation (for free!). We were given a tasting menu and a tasting board of 12 different beverages (that we shared between two). There were so many that were delicious. I loved the ginger tea, the ginseng coffee and the hot chocolate made from real cocoa! And I loved it so much that we bought some to take home and for souvenirs.
Tasting coffee with the locals might offer a slightly different taste than what we are used to. The Balinese like to drink their coffee black and with lots of sugar. What’s more, the end of the coffee often has the dregs of coffee grinds sitting heavy at the bottom of your cup in a sludge. Hence, it is sometimes referred to as ‘mud coffee’. Also be warned that asking for coffee with milk in Bali may leave you with a very sweetened version of coffee with condensed milk, known as kopi susu.
Information about visiting a coffee plantation in Bali would be incomplete without mentioning the renowned Kopi Luwak. Reputed as the world’s most expensive coffee and equally known to locals as poo coffee (or sh** coffee to others), Kopi Luwak finds its origins in Indonesia. As the names suggest, it is coffee that is processed from coffee beans that have been excreted by the palm civet cat. While the process originally started in the wild, unfortunately the industry has taken a turn for the worse and luwaks are now been held in captivity for the sheer purpose of eat and pooing out coffee beans. The unfair treatment of luwaks has been raised by the likes of Peta which you can read more about here.
So when purchasing the world’s most expensive coffee do think twice and make sure it is sourced from the wild. Admittedly. we did try the notorious coffee (prior to realising how poorly the animals were treated) Again we were offered the chance to roast ourselves but politely declined. . The verdict? Quite frankly, it does taste as the name suggests – like sh**. So if you were to skip it, you wouldn’t be missing out!
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