Indonesia Coffee History

Coffee came to the archipelago in the late 17th century. The legend of coffee itself makes fascinating reading, but for Indonesian purposes coffee arrived here in an organised fashion with the VOC (the Dutch East Indies company) via Yemen and the Dutch enclave of Malabar. These first coffee were Arabicas, and were well suited to the tropical conditions found on Java. The first plantations were located close to Batavia (old Jakarta). Later plantations were established in Sulawesi, Sumatra and Timor. Coffee, along with nutmeg, cloves and other spices, became the backbone of the VOC. After the demise of the VOC the Dutch colonial government took over many of the business activities in Indonesia. At one stage sale of these commodities made up almost 30% of the Dutch GDP.

In the late 1800's rust disease hit the coffee crops of Indonesia. The disease was debilitating, wiping out most of the Arabica trees in Java, as well as in the outer islands. The Dutch colonial government responded by replanting- mostly in the more resistant Robusta variety. Robusta still makes up around 90% of the coffee crop grown in Indonesia today.