Coffee in Paradise: An introduction to coffee in Bali (and a glimpse into coffee flour!)

Wednesday, 2 May, 2018

We recently saw a video on NowThis Food about the amazing product that is Coffee Flour which reminded our editor of her travels to Bali where she experienced this deliciousness first hand. An excellent use of the coffee cherries that are left behind after processing! Read the full Bali Story published in Issue 21 and see the video below.


Coffee in Paradise

An introduction to coffee in Bali

Words by Melanie Winter

There are seven puppies loose on the veranda. They are licking my toes (which is my worst sensation), yet I can’t help but smile and shake it off, because I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this family. After a feast of local cuisine, a loaf of bread is placed on the table.

The bread is warm from the oven and a deep chocolate colour. It is slightly sweet and has hints of a flavour I can’t quite put my finger on. I am not surprised when it is revealed to be bread made using coffee flour, which is ground down from dried cascara, the sweet fruit outer layer of the coffee cherry. The flour is considered to have ‘super-food’ qualities, high in anti-oxidants and nutrients; at this point all that matters to me is that it tastes delicious. Our host, Hendarto Setyobudi, owner of the processing station in the Kintamani mountains on the Indonesian island of Bali, explains that at Mengani Coffee they try to utilise each part of the coffee harvest.


The harvest should be in full swing here, but production is down from previous years. We are visiting in July and normally harvest runs from June all the way through to the end of September, but the yield has been so low that there are no more cherries to dry. Yield has been on a steady decline over the last couple of years. Hendarto is worried that the farmers lack proper agronomy training and they are unwilling to change their methods which is contributing to fewer cherries on the trees, so he is taking matters into his own hands and starting to buy up land to grow coffee. Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to talk with any of the farmers, as the season is over. It is a worrying trend. Coffee is a difficult crop to grow and not much work has been done in these hills to maintain skills training. The volcanic minerals in the soil provide some amazing raw ingredients for the trees and up in the mountains it gets just cold enough to be a suitable growing climate, although opinions about ideal climates and elevations for growing coffee trees are evolving all the time, but farmers are losing interest and investing in crops that are easier and quicker to tend. 


This upsets Hendarto as he is passionate about all things coffee. The Mengani washing station is impressive. Of course, I have limited experience of washing stations, having only visited Ethiopia so far, but the set ups are vastly different. All the equipment, from pulpers to fermentation tanks to drying beds and sorting tables, is in amazing condition. He makes it his business to keep up to date with processing trends. The cherries are largely washed, with the Black Honey variation of this being his pride and joy. With the capacity to process immense amounts of cherry, it’s no wonder that Hendarto has a long term plan to grow his own cherries. There are thousands of seedlings growing here. I am always in awe of how the coffee tree starts its journey. Literally from a single coffee seed. It’s so beautiful; the first green stem pushes the coffee seed up through the soil, the little coffee bean reaching up to the sun. It sheds this husk as the first leaves curl open. 


At the moment they are experimenting on the current property to see which varietals work well with the soil and climate. The varietal Kopiol, makes up 60% of the current trees in the region. We walk through all the different varietals, as Hendarto explains which have been the most successful and resistant to pests. They are also experimenting with growing other crops among the cherries, in this case, peppercorns! I’ve never thought about where the peppercorns in my pepper grinder come from, but here they are, bunches and bunches on each tree. It turns out this crop is relatively low risk to grow and yields can be very good. I wonder whether this intercrop growing condition will have an effect of the flavour as banana trees have been reported to have an effect on flavour of coffee trees growing in close proximity, perhaps the peppercorns will lend a shiraz-like spiciness to the cherries? Who knows! He’s excited about the Blue Mountain seedlings, this is the first time they have been planted in Bali and he has high hopes for what the future of this particular Kenyan varietal may produce.


Before we can leave, Hendarto insists on preparing us a pour over of one of his pet projects, his pinot noir processed beans. Left in the fermentation tank for nine full days (fermentation is anywhere between 12 and 72 hours), the well developed sugars give the beans an almost port-like quality, a deep sweetness that resemble the after dinner beverage.


Indonesian coffee, specifically Balinese coffee, has taken a bit of a hit in popular culture with the controversy of the civet cat Kopi Luwak coffee that became so trendy as being the most expensive coffee in the world. The island is still littered with signs beckoning you towards Kopi Luwak tastings. However, be warned, if caged animals used for commercial gain offends your sensibilities, this is not the tourist activity for you. Thankfully, there is much more to Indonesian coffee.


Bali is no longer all surf breaks, jungle and volcanoes, the tourist trade has encouraged major development in particular areas, especially on the West Coast where things have been swiftly commercialised to cater to the droves of pleasure (and enlightenment) seekers. In the five years since I was there last, the growth has been incredible. Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and the already tourist over-ridden Kuta have become small cities of sparkling hotels and high end shopping. The one (And in my opinion, only) excellent side-effect of this, is the cafe culture. In 2012, always interested in taking in the local traditions, I happily drank the kopi: darkly roasted coffee ground into the finest of powders, two scoops directly into a cup and topped up with hot water. You wait for a couple minutes to let the fines settle and then you consume. It’s a rather textured way to drink coffee and this time around I had many more options.


On arrival I was whisked to Simply Brew in Sanur, home to a colossal, gold Probat roaster and multiple SCAE training certificates. I had a silky and bright cortado (Java/Ethiopia Sidamo blend) as the heat rose off the sidewalk. In fact my hosts have been influential in starting up a roastery in their home town of Ubud. It was with more than a little pride that I recently had the opportunity to visit Ubud Coffee Roastery in Bali, where Rupert Staveley convinced the owner of Taksu Spa that buying a coffee roaster was an excellent idea and the tiny cafe was born. It has quickly become a go to spot in bustling Ubud for amazing quality coffee. I was very excited to taste the Indonesian blend on offer. Sweet and rich, my cortado was extremely satisfying. I am certain that in large part, Rupert and Sara encouraged the birth of this cafe so that they would have a go-to coffee spot that meets with their palates. It seems the rest of the Ubud community and the many wandering travellers that pass through agree with their taste in coffee. Cak Rosyad, a former IT guy, has taken the reigns behind the roaster and has approached it with the same precision he would a delicate computer system, experimenting with roast profiles and logging all his endeavours, keen to learn as much as he can about coffee. The result is an amazing dedication to quality in the cafe. He and I sat and had a long chat about the different approaches to coffee across the globe and I was again reminded, as I am so often, about the unifying power of coffee. Experimentation is a top priority in this roastery and alternative brews are encouraged for people to take home with them when they buy a bag of beans. Canggu is a hipster world of its own. Birthplace of the now legendary Deus Ex Machina, one of the first official motorcycle cafes, the black sand beach town is littered with beautiful machinery and gorgeous cafes with every couple of steps. You are there to be seen and to Instagram about it. They’re not all talk and no action though, the coffee is actually really good at most of these gorgeous locations. 


While all the cafes I visited were fiercely patriotic and largely use beans from Indonesian islands, because the Balinese yield was so low they can’t afford or get their hands on any of their local beans. Hopefully in the coming years they will be stocking coffee grown on their own island. I’m certainly looking forward to tasting some of Hendarto Setyobudi’s coffee in the future.



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