According to legend, many centuries ago, an Indian man called Baba Budan stole coffee seeds from Saudi Arabia, taking them back to his country for cultivation. One of the seeds is said to have been imported to Indonesia and hence started production. Legend aside, coffee was indisputably introduced into Indonesia by the Dutch in the 17th century. These islands were the first in the world where coffee, imported from its place of origin (Africa), came to be cultivated on a large scale. Production, which initially focused on the Arabica variety, developed extraordinarily thanks to the highly favourable climatic conditions and characteristic rich and volcanic soil; quickly turning Indonesia into the leading producer worldwide. Unfortunately at the end of the 1800s, plantations were wiped out by “coffee rust” – one of the deadliest diseases for this plant. Caused by the fungus hemileia vastatrix, it almost led to the disappearance of Indonesian coffee from the coffee market. In order to come up with a quick solution, plantation owners switched to the less fragile Robusta variety. It was only after the proclamation of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950 and subsequent nationalization of production that the government decided to restore the old Arabica plantations. Nowadays, Indonesia is the fourth producer of it worldwide and second of the Robusta variety following Vietnam – Arabica production accounts for only 10% of total production. The special feature of Indonesian coffees is that, as they are cultivated in different islands (each with their respective characteristics, and notable differences in terms of climate, terrain and altitude), they can vary significantly.
TRADITION AND COFFEE
Ninety percent of Indonesians are Muslim – known to have a close connection to coffee in their rituals. One of which is the funeral (Ngrim leluhur), a sacred traditional rite in Indonesian culture which accompanies the burial of the deceased in his journey towards the afterlife. The remains are blessed with rose petals and scented incense is lit by the family. The votive offering usually consists of a handful of rice, fresh fruit, coffee and kretek (typical Indonesian cigarettes with a blend of coffee and shredded cloves).
The daily consumption of this drink also follows a specific preparation and is served in kopi warung (typical Indonesian coffee shops) in glasses called gelas, similar to beer mugs. Done in public whiling away the time browsing the newspaper, chatting to the neighbour or nibbling on a typical dessert.