Starting from the story of the discovery of “Coffee Beans” which spread to Europe until it finally entered Indonesia and now we can taste the delicious aroma of brewed coffee.

What is the story behind the coffee we enjoy every day?

behind the coffee brew
Coffee is now a popular drink sold in cafes.

From ancient times to the present day, Indonesia has been renowned for its diversity and the abundance of its natural resources, cultures, races, and tribes. This rich tapestry of nature and culture has significantly influenced the wide-ranging variety of food and beverages found throughout the country.

This diversity extends beyond culinary delights to encompass the plethora of flora and fauna that adorn Indonesia with their breathtaking beauty. It is also intricately tied to the intriguing history and evolution of coffee in Indonesia. So, what exactly is the history behind coffee’s journey to becoming the beloved beverage we know today in Indonesia?

Many Indonesians commonly believe that coffee is an indigenous product, uniquely their own. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that coffee’s origins can be traced back to the African continent, specifically the region known today as Ethiopia. The historical accounts of coffee’s beginnings confirm that the coffee plant was first discovered in Africa. Subsequently, it was cultivated and introduced to various parts of the world, eventually finding its way to Indonesia.

Behind the delicious brew of coffee

History records that coffee was first discovered by Ethiopians around 3000 years ago. This is evidenced by the story of a goat herder who took his animals to the fields, only to lose them. While looking for his livestock, he saw his goats eating a seed like a berry on a tree, and then the goats were still happy and jumping up and down even though the sun had set. Then the shepherd tried to eat the seed and afterward he was as excited as his goats and felt refreshed.

Read also: Coffee Story: Getting to Know the History of Coffee, the Sweet Black Delight

In the past, coffee was not ground before brewing. Initially, coffee was dried and then brewed, and it took five centuries for a device to be invented for grinding coffee beans. During that era, coffee processing remained relatively uncomplicated, in sharp contrast to today’s highly diverse coffee processing methods.

The early history of coffee in Indonesia

brewing coffee
Unfortunately, this literacy about West Java’s coffee history is unknown to the current generation of coffee lovers. (Source: Wartakopi)

The history of coffee in Indonesia began when the Dutch governor in Malabar, India, sent seeds of Yemeni coffee or Kopi Arabica (Coffea Arabica) to the Dutch governor in Batavia, now known as Jakarta, in 1696. This coffee seedling failed for the first time due to flooding in Batavia.

The second shipment of coffee beans to Batavia took place in 1699. The coffee factory was expanded and in 1711 the first coffee export was sent from Java to Europe by the Dutch trading company VOC (Verininging Oogst Indies Company) which was founded in 1602.

Java Coffee is an icon and legend in the world coffee industry from the land of Priangan. (Source: Wartakopi)

Even in the 10 years of coffee exports, exports have continued to increase to 60 tons per year. Indonesia is where coffee was first widely grown outside of the Arabian region and Ethiopia. Eventually, the VOC monopolized the coffee trade from 1725 to 1780.

Coffee trade considered profitable for VOC

Historically, in the 17th century, coffee officially entered Europe. Unfortunately, coffee did not thrive there, so they utilized their colonies to cultivate coffee plants.

The existence of the coffee trade in Indonesia at that time, certainly added coffers of money to the VOC’s pockets, but also little benefit to Indonesian farmers, who were forced to plant by the Dutch colonial government. In theory, producing goods for export means making money for the Javanese to pay taxes.

brewing coffee
In the book “Preanger the Land of Coffee”, it is mentioned that Priangan is the second oldest coffee plantation in the world. (Source: Wartakopi)

The tax payment system was known in the Netherlands as Cultuurstelsel (cultivation system) and covered spices and many major tropical crops. Cultuursstelsel for coffee was implemented in the Preanger region of West Java. In fact, prices for these key agricultural commodities are set too low and ignore the work of farm laborers, creating a difficult situation for farmers.

In the mid-17th century, the VOC developed Arabica Coffee growing areas in Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi and the Timor Islands. In Sulawesi, coffee was first planted in 1750. In the highlands of North Sumatra, coffee was planted near Lake Toba in 1888, then in the Gayo highlands of Aceh near Lake Laut Tawar in 1924.

In 1850, Dutch government colonial official Eduard Doues Dekker wrote a book titled “Max Havelaar and the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company”, which exposed the pressure on farmers by corrupt and greedy officials. This book has helped change Dutch public opinion about the “cultivation system” and colonialism in general. In fact, the name Max Havelaar has also been adopted by the first fair-trade organization.

Changing Arabica to Robusta

Around the 18th century, Dutch colonials established a large coffee plantation on the Ijen plateau in East Java. However, a disaster occurred in 1876, when coffee plants were affected by leaf rust disease throughout Indonesia, which had destroyed the entire crop. Robusta coffee (C. canephor var. Robusta) was introduced to East Java in 1900 to replace arabica coffee plants at lower altitudes and rust disease was gradually eliminated.

In 1920, small companies in Indonesia began growing coffee as their main commodity. Plantations in Java began to be nationalized on Indonesian Independence Day and were revived with a new Arabica variety in 1950. These coffee types were then adopted by small companies through the government and communities.

As of today, over 90% of Indonesia’s Arabica coffee is cultivated by small-scale enterprises, primarily located in North Sumatra, with plantations of one hectare or less. The annual Arabica coffee production exceeds 200 thousand tons, capable of satisfying approximately 7% of the global coffee demand. Most of the Arabica coffee exported to other countries falls within the specialty market segment.

Read also: Coffee Story: Exploring How the Word “Coffee” Was Invented

That’s it for the history and development of coffee in Indonesia up to the present. Quite fascinating, isn’t it?

Starting from Ethiopia, it spread to Arabia until the history of great sacrifices to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in Indonesia. The coffee plant is not native to Indonesia, but Indonesia is able to become the largest coffee-producing country in the world, along with Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia.

If you are a coffee producer from various regions, do not hesitate to open a shop on the KopiKita platform, so that coffee lovers from all over Indonesia can taste your coffee production. Apply for a business to the KopiKita platformnow by filling out the following form .

Are you a coffee enthusiast? Explore the KopiKita platform to discover a wide variety of Indonesian coffees from different regions, all at the best prices!