History of Coffee in Indonesia

Coffee was first successfully planted in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian nation comprised of thousands of volcanic islands in 1699 by Dutchman Hendrik Zwaardecroon. Indonesia first exported coffee in 1711 via the Dutch East India Company, a relationship that to some extent continues to this day.

Indonesian coffee dominated the European coffee market throughout the 1700’s, a position that remained unchanged until eclipsed by Brazil, whose cultivation of coffee was also initiated by the Dutch in 1840.

Rust, a fungal disease that strikes coffee leaves, destroyed much of Indonesia’s coffee trees in the late 1800’s. After a false start with Liberica, Indonesia settled on Robusta, a naturally rust-resistant strain of coffee that now accounts for almost 90% of Indonesian coffee exports.

After WWII, Indonesia seized independence from both the Dutch and briefly the Japanese in 1949. Indonesia, in part through the nationalization of its coffee industry, and in part due to the development of small shareholder farms (estimated to be approximately 3.6 million smallholders across the archipelago), now holds steady as the world’s 4th largest producer of coffee, with just over 900 million pounds in 2014.

Indonesian coffee is primarily known by region: Java, Sumatra, Aceh Gayo, Toraja, Mandehling and Sulawesi (formerly Celebes).

Today, Indonesia’s coffee industry is thriving with a strong international reputation. At home it’s supported by a number of trade organizations including the Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia, developed to export coffee as well as work identifying and labeling via geographical indication (a form of trademark) in order to protect Indonesia’s coffee reputation. It also manages an international outreach program, working with other countries to improve the overall quality of their nation’s coffee.