Sulawesi is an Indonesian island that has become known around the world for its unique and great-tasting coffee. Along with other popular coffee-growing regions of Indonesia, Sulawesi has a high elevation and is deep in rich culture with its coffee. One of the most popular regions in Sulawesi is Toraja, which is where the majority of Sulawesi coffee is grown.
What Is Sulawesi Coffee?
Sulawesi coffee is coffee that comes from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is known as some of the world’s best coffee and can even be considered a rare coffee. Coffee here has been produced for centuries by the local people of Sulawesi island.
The most unique Sulawesi coffee is from Toraja, also known as Celebes coffee, together with Kalossi. Sulawesi Coffee beans are grown in a high elevation area of Sulawesi Island and are handpicked by farmers who are careful not to damage the trees or leaves. They are then taken to local mills for processing before being sent off to be roasted.
Sulawesi coffee is a complex coffee made up of many factors that make it intriguing and special. Its qualities are dependent on its unique climate, soil, and processing methods. It has grown in the same region for over 400 years.
The History of Sulawesi Coffee
Sulawesi coffee is one of the most popular types of coffee in Indonesia. It is also amongst the most expensive types of coffee in the world because it is a rare and unique product, produced in smaller quantities than other regions.
The origins of coffee in Sulawesi are uncertain, but it is linked to the Dutch who brought coffee to Indonesia originally. After being introduced to coffee, other islands started small plantations and began to cultivate the coffee plant.
Sulawesi Coffee Growing & Processing
Sulawesi is one of many islands located in Indonesia and offers ideal growing conditions for coffee plants. The island has a tropical climate with warm temperatures and regular moisture in the air, this allows for the coffee plans to thrive and enjoy perfect conditions to grow.
The main factor of Sulawesi’s unique coffee taste is the altitude. Coffee is grown anywhere from 4,000ft to 6,000ft+ above sea level. This allows for a better climate described previously. A key thing to note about Sulawesi is that the island has dense forestry which provides shade for the coffee plants, essential for preventing sun damage.
Coffee farming in Sulawesi is not heavily regulated and relies on many small plantations or family-owned farms to produce coffee beans. This results in a relatively small production amount and an unreliable one too. This is generally what makes the coffee more expensive and considered as rare – in addition to its unique taste and quality.
With no real requirement or regulation on growing coffee, production from Sulawesi could disappear completely one day. It is down to the individual farmers to have the motivation to grow, cultivate, harvest, and sell in order to keep the Sulawesi coffee trade going.
Like most of Indonesia, coffee that is grown in Sulawesi is processed using the Giling Basah method (wet-hulling). This follows a specific process that can take around 3-8 days, before being exported where the beans are then roasted and sold for consumption.
Using the Giling Basah method is essential in the climates of Sulawesi as the temperature and humidity prevent complete sun drying and could affect the overall production rate. This method does allow for a full-bodied coffee that is rich and bold, but also lacks sweetness.
When looking for the best types of Sulawesi coffee, consider those that come from the north of Toraja. This is where smaller farms are located but the coffee is grown at a higher elevation – producing a better quality coffee.
Growing coffee in Sulawesi is a very slow process, due to its complexities. It generally takes around 3 years to grow the coffee plant until it can be harvested.
2 Main Coffee Regions in Sulawesi
There are likely many microlots that produce coffee for personal or island consumption, that do not even make it out to consumers. For those, you would have to take a visit to Sulawesi and sample some of the islands best. However, there are two coffee growing regions that produce coffee that is well-known and obtainable across the world.
The two main Sulawesi coffee regions are:
Kolassi is a small region and is highly focused on coffee. In fact, coffee is the main driving force of the local economy there. You will find that the coffee from this region has a very earthy taste, is full-bodied, and has a very bold flavor. It also has a low acidity, like many of the coffees produced in Indonesia.
Toraja is the main coffee growing region of Sulawesi. It offers perfect growing conditions thanks to its volcanic soil, humid climate, and high altitudes. The coffee from here is considered to be full-bodied with a smooth texture and notes of cinnamon and chocolate. It also has a low acidity, the same as Kolassi.
Why Is Sulawesi Coffee Special?
Due to the rarity of the beans and the smaller production amount, Sulawesi coffee beans are considered rare and special. You will find it harder to find coffee from this region but you will also find that it tastes very unique and perhaps much better than many other regions.
What Does Sulawesi Coffee Taste Like?
In general Sulawesi coffee has a full body, is low in acidity, and is stong and bold. The taste will depend on how the coffee is roasted but you can find great tastes of cinnamon, chocolate, and some fruit notes. Every coffee you have will be different depending on where it’s roasted and even the harvesting process, but you can expect a smooth and full-bodied brew from Sulawesi beans.
As with most beans grown in Indonesia, it is best to have them dark roasted. This allows for more flavor to drawn out from the bean where you can really experience the true taste and flavors. It is also recommended to enjoy Sulawesi coffee as a single origin, not a blend.
Where to Buy Sulawesi Coffee?
Coffee from the island of Sulawesi can be hard to come by due to its small production and unregulated coffee farms. However, more specialty and individual coffee companies are beginning to source coffee from this region and it can be purchased online, mainly in the US. Here are some of the options of where to buy Sulawesi coffee:
- Sulawesi Coffee – Celebes Kalossi
- Toraja Sulawesi Coffee – White Eagle
- Genuine Sulawesi “Celebes” Kalossi
- Sulawesi Dark Roast Coffee – Reserve, Celebes Kalossi
The Final Sip
You should now have more insight into Sulawesi coffee and the incredible flavors and brew that comes from this small region of Indonesia. Remember to purchase a dark roast and aim for coffee that comes from the northern area of Toraja for the best-tasting coffee. Of course, you can always take a trip there and try it for yourself!