The Brief History of Indonesian Coffee

Since the ancient times Indonesia is famous for its natural wealth and spices. One of them is Indonesian coffee that is so popular in the world. It is also the main attraction for foreign tourists to visit Indonesia. Today, Indonesia is on the fourth rank in the world’s best coffee producers. As Indonesians you should be very proud for this achievement.

Although there are still Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia who leads the coffee production in the world, coffee in Indonesia has its own characteristics. It also has the great history of Indonesian coffee that you should know.

  • How coffee entered Indonesia

In 1707, a Governor named Van Hoorn distributed coffee seeds to Batavia, Cirebon, Priangan, and the northern coastal area of Java Island. This new plant has been successfully cultivated in Java since 1714-1715. About 9 years later, coffee production in Indonesia has been so abundant and able to dominate the world market. Even at that time the amount of coffee exports from Java to Europe had exceeded the amount of coffee exports from Mocha (Yemen) to Europe.

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  • The first failure of coffee plantation

In 1878 there was a heartbreaking tragedy. Almost coffee plantations in Indonesia in the lowlands were damaged by leaf rust disease or Hemileia vastatrix (HV). At that time, all of the coffee plants in Indonesia were a type of Arabica (Coffea arabica). To solve this problem, the Dutch brought a species of coffee Liberica (Coffea liberica) which was estimated to be more resistant to leaf rust disease.

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  • The Substitution into Liberica Coffe

The next historical development is the replacement of Plant Crops from Arabica Coffee to Coffee Liberica. The substitution of Arabica Coffee Plant to Coffee Liberika was aimed to find a coffee plant that matched the tropical climate in Indonesia. The reason for the change of Arabica coffee plant was because in 1878 the natural commodities of Arabica coffee beans failed. Almost all the coffee plants attacked by the disease. The failure of Arabica coffee cultivation supported the Dutch government thought again to bring more coffee plants to Indonesia. And this coffee plant was different from before, so they chose to change into Liberica.

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  • The Substitution to Robusta Coffee

The next development is the existence of other species of coffee plants that is the type of Robusta Coffee (Coffea Canephora). The arrival of Robusta coffee plant is due to the cultivation of liberica coffee in Indonesia was also failed.  The failure of cultivating this species of coffee crop was not the end of the development of coffee crops in Indonesia. Another effort was made by bringing back another species of Robusta coffee plant species (Coffea Canephora).

Robusta coffee plant species was imported in 1907. The arrival of Robusta coffee species was finally able to survive from various disease attacks and thrive. Robusta Coffee Plant in Indonesia is very easy to be cultivated and can grow in the lowlands with a tropical climate.

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  • Indonesian Coffee export

The history of Indonesian coffee exports has started since the VOC era in power. In order to smoothen the way of coffee exports from Indonesia, Herman Willem Daendels who ruled the Indonesia in 1808-1811 ordered the construction of highways ranging from Anyer to Penarukan. The goal was to facilitate transportation system of coffee delivery from east to west in Batavia Port. So, it could be directly sent to Europe.

With the implementation of forced labor system and the building of road infrastructure in Java Island, coffee production in Java could reach 26,000 tons. Even between the years 1830-1834 production has penetrated the figure of 79,000 tons. Until the peak in the 19th century, precisely in 1880-1884, coffee production in Indonesia had reached 94,000 tons.

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  • The book of Max Havelaar

The coffee plant development in the country continued for many years afterwards. Eduard Doues Dekker also discussed the pressures experienced by coffee farmers of Indonesia in his article entitled “Max Havelaar and the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company”. His work has contributed to help the change public opinion about the cultivate system.

Then in the 1920s, small and medium enterprises in Indonesia began to grow coffee as a major commodity in most of Java area. Slowly and regularly, Indonesia transformed into the largest coffee production center in the world.

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  • The transfer of coffee production

The next historical development is about the transfer of coffee plant production from the Dutch government to the Government of Indonesia. This transfer of production occurred in 1945 after the independence of the Indonesian nation. It was in the post-independence period that all plantations formerly managed by the Dutch were nationalized and fully owned by the Indonesian government. With the transfer of production, the supplier of coffee to the world is no longer done by the Dutch. The entire coffee plantation relic from the Dutch Government is managed by the Farmers in their respective regions until now.

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  • After the independence

The history of coffee in Indonesia after the colonization is growing rapidly. All plantations and coffee plants originally controlled by the Dutch colonial government were nationalized and belong to the Indonesian government. But the development of coffee plantations after colonization is a bit in a problem.

The types of coffee grown at the time of colonization are mostly arabica and robusta coffee that had the low selling power. Due to the persistence of coffee farmers in Indonesia the coffee plantation gradually grew up. Coffee plantations had been ups and downs, especially not long after Indonesia’s independent political and economic crisis that disrupted the stability. At that time, coffee plantations were also affected.

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  • Coffee in modern era

After 2000’s, the development of coffee again skyrocketed. Since then, coffee has become one of the favorite drinks of many people. Moreover, the processed coffee since that time was more varied. In Indonesia there is not only black coffee which tastes bitter, but also a lot of coffee with a delicious flavor. Recently, Indonesia began to find a new type of coffee that called luwak coffee (civet coffee). The presence of this new coffee makes coffee commodities in Indonesia growing more advanced. The type of civet coffee is preferred because it feels lighter and safer for the patients with mag disease.

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Those are the long journey for history of Indonesian coffee and right now the kind of coffee in Indonesia become more various. It couldn’t be separated from the effort of Indonesians who give their contribution toward the development of coffee production in Indonesia.