Much to my delight, Caffe Vita was invited to attend the first ever Indonesian Specialty Coffee Auction, which took place last week in Bali. Not quite knowing what to expect I made the journey half way around the world to see, smell, and taste what could be considered the finest from one of the largest producers of coffee in the world. Submissions throughout the archipelago had been collected, with only twenty-three coffees making the grade, of which seven were small lots of the notorious luwak (civet) coffee.
Before the festivities began I wanted to gain some knowledge about the local production of coffee, so I went on a day trip through the Kintamani highlands, a volcanic plateau with an average elevation of 1000-1700 meters.
The agricultural production on the island has been well organized for generations through the subak abian, which functions similar to a co-op and is based on the principle that happiness is a result of maintaining a healthy relationship with other people, the environment, and the gods. The farmer can utilize the subak abian to process and sell their harvest, which in addition to coffee may include cloves, orange, cocoa, and rice.
A leading member of the subak abian, Mr. Astika Nyoman III, accompanied us on the trip. Here he is describing the various plants and shade cover that grow in harmony with the coffee, and some of the challenges that face the local farmers.
One challenge has been a lack of water for processing, but as a response the natural method (in which the entire cherry is sun-dried on a raised bed) is now being used for a portion of the harvest and the results have been interesting — a cup with huge chocolaty body, brandied fruit aromas, and good sweetness. This spirit of experimentation is encouraging in a region that is constantly challenged by the ever present whim of nature.
More from Bali to come soon…