Indonesian Coffees: The Land of Kopi Luwak and Other Specialty Coffees

When it comes to coffee, we usually refer to Latin American countries. Almost all of them grow coffee and are known for its quality. However, there are also some countries on the Asian continent that stand out. One of these countries is Indonesia, which is known for both the quality and quantity of coffee produced there. After all, it is the fourth largest coffee producer in the world, after Colombia, Vietnam, and Brazil.

Ever since coffee arrived in the country more than 400 years ago, it has been one of Indonesia’s most important crops. It has been the livelihood of millions of families for many years. Although the country consists of a large number of islands, there are coffee plantations in different parts of its territory.

What is Indonesian coffee like?

Indonesian coffee is known for several distinctive features. Unlike many Latin American countries, the Robusta species is the predominant coffee grown. A smaller percentage is Arabica, the best quality and commercially most important variety.

The country nevertheless produces several specialty coffees. One of them, perhaps the best known, is Kopi Luwak. The beans pass through the digestive tract of the civet, a small mammal. Other brands known on the international market are Mandailing, Toraja, Aceh, and Goya.

In Indonesia, it is very common for these coffees to be named after a region or ethnic group. Not only because they grow and produce it, but also because they are very proud of their coffee tradition.

Tasting notes

Due to the variety of coffees produced in Indonesia, whether specialty coffee or regular coffee, cupping notes are not uniform. However, it is generally described as a coffee with predominantly earthy, woody, tobacco, spicy and smoky flavors due to its production process. However, there are also regions where the coffee has more fruity and sweet notes. It is also known for having a very good body, low acidity, and a long-lasting aftertaste. A dark roast is best suited.

How is the coffee grown?

Coffee cultivation in Indonesia, while not new, is still a rather traditional practice. According to Indonesia Investments, an area of about 1.24 million hectares is planted with coffee. Of this, 933 hectares are Robusta and 307 hectares are Arabica. It is also grown and harvested by smallholders who own only one or two hectares each. Despite this, the country has long been one of the top 10 coffee producers in the world.

Indonesia is geographically diverse and the climate is tropical. It is located on the equator and therefore, like South America, has two seasons, dry and rainy. The islands generally have a forested heartland, perched on high mountains that have almost always a volcanic origin. At lower elevations, there are plains and coastal areas. Coffee plantations are located in the forested highland areas of Indonesia. 

Together with the warm and constant average temperature of 26 °C (79 °F), this provides ideal conditions for the growth and development of coffee plants. The most common cultivation system is shade cropping.

Production process

This process begins when the fruits are ready for harvest. This happens only when they have reached the perfect degree of ripeness. Although there are some areas where machines are used, in general, the processes are manual. This is also the most commonly used and preferred method, as this is how the best fruits are selected. Those that are in poor condition can be disposed of more easily this way.

When all the berries are harvested, they must be processed. In this way, green coffee is obtained, which are the beans that are exported and marketed. There are two ways to do this: wet and dry. In Indonesia, both are used, depending on the area.

Dry processing is widely used in small coffee farms in various parts of the country, such as Sumatra. In this process, whole coffee fruits are dried in the sun until they reach a certain moisture level. This can take several weeks and is therefore much more time-consuming than the wet process. In addition, the beans must be constantly turned and raked to ensure that they dry evenly. When they are dry, the pulp and mucilage are removed. The result is a green bean that later yields a full-bodied, sweet and soft cup.

The “Giling Basah”

The other method is the wet method, which produces a so-called washed coffee. In Indonesia, however, there are some peculiarities. The method that is rather semi-wet is called Giling Basah and results in a semi-washed coffee.

After harvesting, the fruit is immediately pulped and stored overnight for fermentation. The next day, the beans are washed with water to remove the mucilage. The result is a moist bean covered with a layer of parchment. They are then partially dried until they have a moisture content of 25 to 30%.

When the beans reach this moisture content, they are threshed to remove the parchment. In this method, this step must be done much more carefully, since the wet beans are more fragile. Finally, they are dried again until they reach a moisture content of 10 to 11%. They are then ready for storage and distribution. These green beans have a slightly different appearance than those treated in the traditional way. They usually have a darker, bluish color.        

The difference between washed and semi-washed coffee is that the former is dried once until it has the ideal moisture content, between 10 and 11%. They are then threshed to remove the parchment. The result is green coffee beans that are exported or distributed for roasting.

Another difference is that the Giling Basah process is much faster. In fact, it became necessary to cope with the heavy rains and high humidity in various coffee-growing areas. Since the wet process, which produces washed coffee, takes longer, the beans are more likely to be exposed to constant rainfall, which affects their properties and quality.

Indonesian coffee growing areas

Indonesia is an island nation consisting of about 17,500 islands. As mentioned above, it is one of the countries that cross the equator and therefore has the ideal climatic and geographical conditions for coffee cultivation. The different mountainous regions allow the production of quality coffee from higher or lower altitudes, such as the Robusta variety.

Coffee is grown on almost all islands in Indonesia. However, the most important are: Sumatra, Java, Celebes (Sulawesi), and Bali.


LocationSoutheast Asia, in the Indian Ocean. Part of the larger Sunda Islands.
Altitude760 to 1,800 meters above sea level.
Temperature21°C to 27°C
Cup profileLow acidity, good body, earthy and spicy notes.

Sumatra is the largest island in Indonesia. It has a tropical climate, forested areas and fertile soil of volcanic origin. Coffee is therefore a very easy plant to grow. Both Arabica and Robusta coffee are grown on the island, but in different areas. The former is typical of the northern part, in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. The latter occurs in larger quantities in the southern part of the island, mainly in Lampung.

The coffee produced in North and Central Sumatra is one of the most famous on the international market. This is because it is of excellent quality and also because many of them are specialty coffees. 

One of them is Mandheling, a registered trademark that refers to the Arabica beans from this region. It is named after the Mandheling, indigenous people who have been devoted to its cultivation and production for years. As is common with Sumatran coffees, this coffee has a very good body, but with little acidity. However, it stands out for its intense sweetness, with notes of chocolate and spices such as cinnamon, walnut, cardamom, and others.

Gayo and Lintong are other well-known coffees on the island. They are native to the province of Aceh, and their names also come from the villages and regions where they are grown. They are highly sought after in the market for their distinctive taste. In general, both share the traditional spiciness, low acidity, and medium to full body of Sumatran coffees. But in the case of Goya, it stands out for its floral and even tea-like notes. In the case of Lintong, notes of herbs, maple, chocolate, and grapefruit predominate. Another distinctive feature of Acehnese coffee is that it is particularly thick.

In some parts of Aceh, the coffee is not marketed and sold immediately but matures for several years. This results in beans that are sometimes of very good quality and have a special taste or may result in very poor quality coffee. In Sumatra, however, Giling Basah is much more common.

Sumatra also produces some Kopi Luwak coffee.


LocationThe island is located in Southeast Asia and makes part of the Greater Sunda Islands. The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is located in Java.
Altitude750 to 1,500 m above sea level.
Temperature21 °C in the main coffee-growing areas.
Cup profileMedium acidity, good body (but not as heavy as in other regions), and earthy notes.

It is another of Indonesia’s main islands and the one where most coffee is produced. The first coffee trees to come to Indonesia were brought to West Java by the Dutch and planted there. 

At first, they grew mostly Arabica crops, but due to a devastating epidemic in late 1888, they had to be replaced. First, they tried Liberica, but eventually they decided to grow Robusta. Only later did they switch back to Arabica and began to gain international recognition for its quality.

Today, coffee plantations are concentrated in the colonial areas where the Dutch grew coffee. The most important are: Belawan, Jampit, Kayumas, Tugusari and Pancur. Most of them are located on the Ijen Plateau, at high altitudes and near the volcano of the same name. Geographically, therefore, it is a region with privileged topography and rich volcanic soils.

Unlike Sumatra, the most common processing method is wet processing, so it is a washed coffee. Therefore, it is of very good quality and has a good cup profile. In general, the coffee is full-bodied but much lighter than coffee from other regions of Indonesia. It has medium acidity, spicy and rustic notes, but with an overall sweet and even herbal flavor.

Old Java Coffee

Java is most famous for using a very special process for coffee. It is known as Old Java Coffee or Monsooning Java Coffee. When the beans are threshed to become green coffee, they are exposed to the constant moisture and rain of Java’s rainy seasons for a long period of time. The beans can go through this process for up to 5 years. 

The result is a coffee with a more pronounced flavor, less acidity, more body, sweetness and woody notes.

Mocha Java Coffee

This is one of the most famous and traditional coffee blends. It is a combination of coffee beans grown in Java and beans from Mocha in Yemen. What makes this coffee special is that it combines the full body and rich flavor of Java with the sweet and fruity notes of Mocha.

Nowadays, however, you can find only a few coffees with this original combination. Blends today usually consist of Java or Sumatra coffees, along with Ethiopian coffees.

Celebes (Sulawesi)

LocationBetween the island of Borneo and the Maluku Islands.
Altitude1,400 to 1,900 meters above sea level.
TemperatureAbout 19 °C to 26 °C (highlands)
Cup profileGood body, low to medium acidity, and light earthy hints. Sweet, sometimes spicy and slightly smoky flavor.

The island of Celebes, commonly known as Sulawesi, is a region known not for volume of coffee, but for its quality. It produces excellent Arabica beans grown at high altitudes. The most important growing area is located in the southeast of the island. One of the most famous coffees, Toraja, is produced here.

Toraja is considered a gourmet coffee and even an exotic coffee. It is grown in small farms with few hectares, so the annual production is small and it is not easily available. That is why it is a highly sought after coffee. It is grown in the higher parts of the island and is known to produce a cup with deep but balanced flavor. It has a good body, low and vibrant acidity and light earthy notes.

For coffee production, wet, dry and Giling Basah processes are used. Toraja is processed with the latter, which also contributes to its distinctive taste and characteristics.


LocationIt borders Java to the west and Lombok to the east.
Altitude1,400 m above sea level.
TemperatureAbout 19° C
Cup profileWoody, critical notes, and full body.

Unlike the other coffee-growing regions in Indonesia, Bali is much smaller. As far as coffee production is concerned, it is known more for its quality than its quantity. The part of the island dedicated to coffee cultivation is Kintamani. It is a truly privileged area, as it not only has cool temperatures and high mountains, but is also surrounded by two volcanoes. This allows the coffee to grow and develop in better soils.

On the other hand, Bali is mainly known as the main growing area for Kopi Luwak coffee. This aspect has also promoted tourism in the region, as many coffee farms offer tours and tastings of this coffee.

Another aspect that sets Bali apart is that many of its coffees are organically grown. This is due to the farmers’ sub-Arabic cultivation system. It is based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. It states that one should be in harmony with God, people, and nature. Thanks to this, no environmentally harmful agrochemicals or pesticides are used on coffee plantations. Not to mention the fact that the coffee trees are in the shade. 

It is also thanks to these facts that Bali has its own protected geographical indication (PGI). This ensures that the coffee produced has its special characteristics because it comes from there.

The wet and dry processes are used for production. The coffee has a good body and sweetness, a rich aroma, and notes of wood and citrus.

Coffee varieties grown in Indonesia

Most of the coffee produced in Indonesia is of the Robusta variety. This is mainly because it is stronger and easier to grow. It can grow at lower altitudes with higher temperatures and in a more humid environment and is much more resistant to diseases and pests. It also has lower production costs, making it much more profitable in large quantities.

This type of coffee is mainly traded and exported to European countries, some Asian countries, and the United States. It is used to make instant coffee or to make blends.

On the other hand, although there is much less Arabica coffee than Robusta, several of these varieties are grown. The most important of them are: Typica, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Catimor, Line S, and Timor Hybrid. Other varieties of Ethiopian origin such as Abyssinia and Rambung also occur.

What makes Indonesian coffee so special?

There are several reasons why Indonesian coffee is so well known internationally. First, although they produce mostly Robusta beans, the Arabica beans are among the best. So, while they don’t make up the majority of the country’s crops, their quality places them among the most important on the market.

Secondly, most of their Arabica coffee is considered a specialty coffee. As we could see above, each main island has a special coffee that characterizes it. The most famous is certainly the exotic Kopi Luwak coffee in Bali and parts of Sumatra. Not every country enjoys coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of an animal and have been selected from its feces. This way of producing coffee gives it a truly unique taste and aroma, so many people around the world are interested in trying it.

Another aspect that makes Indonesian coffee so special is its particular method of production. In most countries, a wet process is used, resulting in a washed coffee. Here, however, the Giling Basah is nearly the most widespread. Thanks to this, the cup of coffee generally has much more body and less acidity than in other countries, in addition to its characteristic spicy, woody, and earthy notes. They are much better suited to medium and dark roasts. Still, depending on the region, pronounced sweet and even fruity notes are noticeable.

In addition, coffee is more difficult to source because it tends to be more artisanal and produced by small growers. This is why many of these beans are so sought after by coffee lovers.

In some parts of Indonesia, coffee takes time. Some prefer to let the coffee “mature” rather than distribute it as soon as it is ready. And not just for a few months or a year, there are coffees that can be subjected to this “monsoon aging” process for up to 5 years. Indonesia is generally a particularly humid and rainy country, more so than the countries of South America. It is therefore a condition that is exploited in some places to produce coffee with even more peculiar properties.

Die 10 besten indonesischen Kaffeesorten

Volcanica Coffee Sulawesi Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

It is a full-bodied coffee, but with a creamy texture. It was grown and harvested in the mountainous regions of the island of Celebes or Sulawesi. It is characterized by a complex flavor with earthy notes and low acidity. Mild maple aroma and a pleasant aftertaste that lingers longer in the mouth characterize it.

Volcanica Coffee Gayo Sumatra Coffee 

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Fruity, cocoa, caramel.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This coffee variety is one of the best in Indonesia. A very good body, exotic flavor, and low acidity characterize it. It is a washed coffee, wet-processed, and organic. It has two seals of approval: Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance.

Volcanica Coffee Toraja Sulawesi White Eagle Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Toraja is one of the flagships of Indonesian specialty coffee. It comes from shade-grown and organic crops, as it holds the Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance seals. It is also one of the rarest, as only a small number of beans can be produced each year. The result is a cup of coffee with balanced acidity, mild flavor and a touch of sweetness.

Coffee Bean Direct Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Chocolate, spice, and earthy hints.

Roasting degree: Dark.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Mandheling coffee beans are considered one of the best in the world. Although they have very low acidity, they are known for their excellent body and aroma. The dark roast emphasizes notes of chocolate, maple and a hint of nuts. It is ideal for grinding at home and using fresh coffee in French presses, Aeropress, etc.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Mocha Java Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Cocoa, spices, and blueberries.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

This is one of the famous blends that you must try. This coffee combines the sweetness and fruity notes of Mocha coffee (from Africa) with the body and spicy notes of Java coffee (from Indonesia).

The Bean Coffee Company Organic Mocha Java Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Nuts.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

There is nothing better than a famous mocha java blend, but organic. It is a coffee with good body, hazelnut notes and rich but complex flavor. It is USDA organic certified and carries the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) seal. It has also been carefully roasted in small batches to extract the best aromas and flavors from the beans.

Koffee Kult Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Chocolate and syrup.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

You can’t get enough of the traditional Mandheling coffee grown in Sumatra. That’s why we have this other option for you. It’s 100% Arabica beans, characteristically mild but with good body and medium acidity.

It was roasted locally by Koffee Kult, one of the most well-known brands in the United States. They are known for their artisan roasting system for gourmet beans. So they are experts at getting the best qualities out of coffee.

Lavanta Coffee Roasters Sulawesi Toraja White Eagle Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Earthy and tobacco.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Ground.

One of the most special coffees is undoubtedly the Toraja, which is why it is popular. It produces a cup with complex but overall balanced flavors. Like all Indonesian coffees, it has low acidity, good body and the typical earthy notes.

Kaya Kopi Premium Kopi Luwak Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Chocolate and earthy notes.

Roasting degree: Dark.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Of course, we could not make this list without adding the famous Kopi Luwak. The controversy surrounding this coffee is generally due to the poor conditions in which the animals are kept in some parts. However, this is an aspect that many manufacturers have begun to take into account in order to improve. 

Brands like Kaya Kopi are committed to animal welfare while producing excellent coffee. The beans are harvested from civet cats in the wild and originate from Java.

It has a delicious flavor, with earthy notes, but also chocolaty and sweet. Its dark roast brings out the best qualities of the coffee, making it perfect for those who prefer an intense coffee.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Bali Blue Moon Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica.

Tasting notes: Dark chocolate, anise, vanilla.

Roasting degree: Medium.

Coffee type: Whole bean.

Bali coffee enjoys great recognition in the international market. It is not only of high quality but also organically grown and has a delicious taste. It is a coffee with a creamy texture, good body, subtle earthy notes, dark chocolate, and hints of spices. 

It is also certified by the Rainforest Alliance and carries the USDA organic seal. So it was grown in the most natural way, without harming the environment. 


If there is one country in the world that produces excellent specialty coffee, it is undoubtedly Indonesia. Its relationship with coffee is so close that it is grown, harvested, and produced on almost all of the main islands.

As we could see, there is not only Kopi Luwak, but also many other coffees, such as the traditional Mandheling and the famous Toraja.

And if one country’s coffee is not enough for you, we have more recommendations: