Known as Celebes under Dutch control, Sulawesi is located in the Malay Archipelago. Following the influx of coffee to Java, Indonesia in 1704, coffee plants were first introduced in Sulawesi around 1750. Growing efforts during this time were small, however increasing. Unfortunately, due to the coffee leaf rust plague, the reputation for Sulawesi coffee beans in declined. This mainly came from the switch to different varieties like Coffea Robusta. Although, the shift to using robusta coffee caused lower quality, production efforts only grew.
Due to the fact that Sulawesi coffee beans tend to be lower quality less expensive, many large companies buy them to cut costs. For example, Starbucks has received coffee from Sulawesi to use in their Reserve Program and even for sale to the public as a single origin. Other brands use the robusta coffee to blend with other coffees as a way to reduce coffee costs.
In Indonesia, where humidity and heavy rainfall plays a role in coffee processing, most coffee undergoes a special type of processing method. Called the Giling Basah wet-hull method, coffee processed in this manner is similar to the wet processing method. After the pulp is removed and the beans are fermented, the beans are set out to dry. The difference lies in the moisture content of the beans when they are sent to be hulled. In the wet-hull method, beans are hulled once they reach a moisture content of 20-24%, as opposed to the 11% in wet processed coffees. The higher moisture content makes it more difficult to remove the parchment from the coffee beans.
Due to the humid climate of Indonesia, setting coffee out to dry would traditionally cause problems with bacteria growth. For this reason, producers began using the wet-hulling method. By removing the parchment surrounding the coffee beans, they dry out a lot quicker from direct exposure to the sun. This processing method mainly done in Indonesia, also creates distinctive coffee profiles.
Sulawesi Coffee Beans Growing Regions
There are two main growing areas within Sulawesi, Toraja and Kalossi.
Although 90% of coffee grown in Indonesia is Robusta, 95% of the coffee grown in Toraja is Arabica. Toraja, located in the Sesean Mountains, is renowned for high-quality specialty coffees. In this region coffee is harvested from July to September and grown at 1400 – 1900 m.a.s.l. Flavor profiles seen in Torajan coffees can be spicy, sweet, chocolate and almond with rich body and low acidity.
Grown in the southeastern highlands of Sulawesi, this region has volcanic soil, resulting in more complex profiles. Coffees in this region are grown at 1100 – 1200 m.a.s.l.
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