Jul 10 2013

Coffee in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Published by at 4:41 am under Sulawesi


One of the most prominent wares for sale in the markets of Rantepao is Tana Toraja’s famed coffee. Tana Toraja is the main coffee growing area in Sulawesi and many shops and stalls will grind up freshly roasted beans for you into a powder — a rather more useful souvenir than some of the others you’ll see around.

Oh yes. Yes, please!

Oh yes. Yes, please!

We stopped at a shop near the town square and its owner, Jaya, an amicable Bugis man who married a woman from Rantepao (they met in Makassar), invited us in to sample some. While the coffee is so finely ground it can be served in typical Indonesian style — as kopi tubruk, or cowboy coffee, where the powder is just mixed in and you wait for it to drift to the bottom before drinking — Jaya had a drip machine plugged in and brewed me a fresh glug-free cup.

Sugar -- an essential ingredient in Indonesian coffee brews.

Sugar — an essential ingredient in Indonesian coffee brews.

His house blend is 25 percent Arabica and 75 percent of the cheaper Robusta bean; it was strong, smooth and bold. Jaya himself has his with milk, four times a day; his current lidded cup sat waiting in the little display cabinet at the front while he showed me samples of each lot of beans. Jaya roasts his own beans, up on the fourth floor of his coffee/homewares shop.

Sorting the beans before they go on display.

Sorting the beans before they go on display.

I ordered a “half-litre” of Arabica, which he pulverised in a petrol-powered contraption set up outside the shop. It goes for 30,000 rupiah; a full litre 60,000 rupiah. Robusta is half that price.

Start your engines.

Start your engines.

Coffee Review says coffee from Tana Toraja can “range from a plantation grown, wet-processed coffee with a smooth, vibrant but relatively low-acid, medium-bodied profile to small-grower coffees that resemble the Mandheling coffees of Sumatra both in virtues (when they are good they are deep, resonant, and pungently complex in the lower registers) and in vices (off-tastes range from earth through musty hardness to an odd stagnant water or pondy taste).”

Beats standing in the supermarket.

Beats standing in the supermarket.

We’d say our cup was deep and resonant rather than stagnant water like. Phew, that was lucky!

Loads of places sell the brown gold, but Jaya is a friendly chap!

Loads of places sell the brown gold, but Jaya is a friendly chap!

If you’re not heading to Tana Toraja, you can still buy the coffee elsewhere in Indonesia;  in Bali or Jakarta, for instance, try Caswell’s or  Anomali.

Toko Sarah Jaya
Jalan Pembangunan 28, Rantepao

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