Coffee Plantations – Talking about coffee, Temanggung is one of the districts in Central Java. It has a long history in the coffee world in Indonesia. The Temanggung coffee plantation is even believed to be one of the important parts of the earliest development of coffees in the archipelago.
For information, coffee in Indonesia was first developed in Kedawung. A plantation located not far from Batavia (Jakarta) by the Dutch East Indies colonial government in 1696. The planting was initiated by the Mayor of Amsterdam, Nicholas Witsen. The coffee seeds were tested on the private land of the VOC Governor General Willem van Oudtshoorn.
First Export, then popular in Europe
Had a failure on the first try, the coffee seed reaped great success on the second try. From the area that is now known as the Pondok Kopi area in Jakarta, coffee grows well. At that time, the coffee variety grown was Arabica. In its first export to Europe around 1706, four quintals of Javanese coffee sent to Amsterdam. It is immediately broke the record auction price there.
Two decades after the first shipment, namely in 1726, no less than 2,145 tons of coffee from the island of Java had flooded Europe. Straddling the mocha coffee from Yemen that had previously been the market leader. The world community began to realize the potential of coffee which was then referred to as Java coffee. For the highest quality coffee, Europeans even replace the word coffee with the word “Java”. A cup of Java has also become a popular term in the Blue Continent.
Expansion and Forced Cultivation
Apart from Java, coffee plantations were also developed in Suriname, which later expanded to Central America and South America. Meanwhile, the increasing demand for coffee products made the Dutch implement forced cultivation in 1830. It is to boost coffee production in Java. All that is planted is the type of arabica imported directly from Yemen.
At that time coffee plantations were also planted in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali, Timor, and Flores. Unfortunately, in 1878 almost all coffee plantations located in the lowlands in the archipelago were damaged by leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix). In the following years, farmers in Java failed to harvest and the potential to export hundreds of thousands of coffee was lost.
Robusta Variety in Temanggung
Frustrated with arabica, the Dutch East Indies colonial government tried to overcome crop failures by selling liberica coffee (Coffea Liberica) in the hope that it would be more resistant to leaf rust attacks. However, these efforts also did not bear fruit. Undeterred, they brought back a new variety, namely Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) in 1907.
By planting robusta coffee, leaf rust pests no longer attack coffee plantations located in the lowlands. Coffee trees in Temanggung which at that time were mostly planted in lowland areas were also protected from these pests.
The Fading Era of Glory
Temanggung is an area consisting of mountains and lowlands. The area is surrounded by volcanoes, making the land in Temanggung quite fertile. It is said that the area that borders Kendal Regency was once one of the largest Robusta coffee producers in Java. However, pests that have returned to attack coffee plants have made farmers in Java desperate.
They also chose to cut down coffee trees and replace them with other, more profitable commodities, including cocoa, coconut, and tobacco. This continued until the heyday of coffee in Java faded.
Temanggung Coffee Enters a New Stage
The era of fading glory did not necessarily make coffee farmers in Java completely dispersed. In some areas, we can still find the remnants of the colonial-era coffee plantations. We can still enjoy their coffee products today.
In Central Java, a number of coffee plantations are still sustainable in Wonosobo, Ambarawa, and Temanggung. Recently, Temanggung coffee has even become one of the “Javanese coffee” products that have emerged among Sumatran coffee products such as Gayo Coffee and Mandailing Coffee which currently dominate the market in Indonesia.
Cahyo Pratomo, a young coffee farmer from Temanggung said that currently, Temanggung coffee is entering a new phase. The 29-year-old said that, like tobacco, coffee plantations also thrive in many villages there, which are usually managed by local farmers and maintained for generations.
As the son of a farmer who struggles with coffee every day, Cahyo knows very well how the development of Temanggung Coffee has been for a long time. Cahyo’s late father is a coffee farmer, while his mother sells coffee at the market every day. So, it is very natural that his life is filled with Temanggung coffee. He could even easily recognize the character of coffee just by smelling it.
Cahyo said that Temanggung coffee has a fairly strong spice flavor, especially for the type of arabica which is usually grown in mountainous areas such as the slopes of Mount Sumbing and Sindoro or the Dieng plateau.
“Besides coffee, the mountainous community in Temanggung generally also grows cloves and tobacco as commodities. This is what makes Temanggung arabica has a spice-like character,” said Cahyo in Front of the House, his coffee shop which had just been established.
Meanwhile, for the type of robusta, the coffee there has a very thick taste, thicker than most robusta, with the aroma of cocoa and brown sugar. This is because apart from coffee, local people also generally grow cocoa and coconut trees in their gardens.
Double the Potential
Cahyo’s life is filled with coffee. After years of wandering to take teacher training in the city of Semarang, the taekwondo athlete couldn’t stop thinking about Temanggung coffee. As a result, he chose to return to his hometown in 2018 to continue his family business.
In his hometown, Cahyo found the fact that the coffee farmers there generally still move independently. They also pay less attention to the quality of the coffee they harvest. He, who had come to offer a way of doubling the coffee harvest potential to Temanggung coffee farmers, even experienced rejections.
“I offered the ‘pick red’ method to the farmers, but they refused because it took longer,” said Cahyo, recently. “They have been coffee farmers for a very long time. I can’t do anything.”
A New Method That Needs To Be Proved
Red picking is a method of harvesting when all the coffee cherries are red (ripe cherries). Coffee that is harvested when it is really ripe will certainly increase the quantity of the harvest. With good processing, this method will also produce premium coffee beans with very qualified quality.
However, when he visited the farmers, Cahyo did not have any evidence, including the certainty that the premium coffee produced would be priced fairly decently or not, or more simply, would anyone want to buy it?
Cahyo, who failed to penetrate the seasoned coffee farmers, then maneuvered by approaching the farmers’ children, most of whom were also the same age as him. Several times they did persuasion, and these young people became interested.
Start Reaping Results
Efforts will not betray the results. This is what Cahyo and his fellow young farmers in Temanggung believe. Tracing from upstream to downstream, Semarang State University alumni found that the biggest problem for coffee farmers in Temanggung, especially for premium products, is promotion and sales.
“The coffee produced in Temanggung is usually for factory use, sold through middlemen. Any quality coffee is priced the same,” explained Cahyo. “So, in order to be able to sell premium coffee, we need buyers who value coffee and are willing to transact in large quantities at the right price.”
Dipper was also greeted. Not long after, Cahyo met Reza Sarsito, the owner of PT KOPEN Kopi Nusantara or better known in Semarang as Kopen Indonesia. Reza, who happened to be having coffee at Home at that time, said that his company was indeed looking for premium products to be exported to a country in the Middle East region.
“We need (coffee) six tons, then met with Mas Cahyo. Check there, check here, finally agreed to take the premium Arabica type Temanggung coffee,” explained Reza, who was immediately greeted with a smile by Cahyo.
KOPEN is here to help
To get the best and most trusted coffee products, KOPEN really pays attention to this. Reza and his team will usually visit coffee farmers’ gardens in various regions to see the process of picking, processing, and packaging. In addition to convincing themselves, direct encounters with farmers are also a form of goodwill so that there is trust between buyers and sellers.
“We buy in large quantities for local and export purposes, including Temanggung coffee. So, we need partners who can be trusted and trust us,” concluded Reza.
For most people in Temanggung, tobacco is everything. They forget that the city which is located on the back of Mount Sindoro and Sumbing is also a coffee producer. Although in terms of quantity it cannot be compared with srintil tobacco in the district, the potential for Temanggung coffee is actually no less large.
The Department of Agriculture and Food Security of Temanggung Regency noted that the coffee plantation area in Temanggung is around 12,000 hectares. Less than half of it is arabica, while the rest is robusta. The last type of plant is even believed to have been planted long before Indonesia’s independence.
Since the days of Dutch colonialism, Temanggung coffee plantations have been designated for robusta coffee. As are other areas in Central Java, such as Wonosobo, Ambarawa, and Muria. So, it is not surprising that the coffee beans, which are famous for their thick bitter taste, dominate the coffee production in the district.