Why is Bali coffee expensive? Short answer, the exotic location and unique coffee harvesting method! But the long answer contains all the juicy bits to make you want Bali coffee.
Bali is an enchanting island paradise in the Indonesian Archipelago that captivates travelers with its breathtaking beauty, vibrant culture, warm hospitality, and of course, home to the world's most expensive coffee- Luwak Coffee!
Bali Kintamani highlands has fertile volcanic soil and a favorable climate that create the ideal conditions for cultivating some of the world's finest coffee beans, resulting in a brew that has captivated the taste buds of coffee connoisseurs worldwide.
The Bali Coffee Profile
Bali's coffee history dates back to the 20th century when Lombok traders introduced coffee to the island. Over time, coffee became an integral part of Balinese culture, and coffee ceremonies emerged as an essential social ritual.
Bali has a strong coffee culture deeply rooted in the daily lives of locals. Traditional Indonesian coffee, such as Kopi Tubruk, is popular among the locals and can be found in various warungs (small local eateries).
Bali is home to several coffee plantations where visitors can learn about coffee-making, from harvesting the coffee cherries to roasting the beans. The most famous and widely available type of Balinese coffee is Kopi Luwak, made from beans that have been eaten, partially digested and excreted by the Asian palm civet.
With Bali being a popular digital nomad destination, coffee shops often double as co-working spaces, providing a conducive environment for remote workers to be productive while enjoying excellent coffee.
Coffee farmers in Bali use different processing methods to bring out the best coffee flavors in their beans. Wet processing, also known as washed processing, is commonly employed, where the coffee cherries are de-pulped, fermented, washed, and dried. Natural processing, where the cherries are dried with the fruit still intact, is also practiced in some areas, resulting in fruitier and more intense flavors.
Coffee Varieties in Bali
Bali is not limited to Luwak Coffee; they also grow Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties. Let’s consider each unique coffee profile:
Bali Arabica Coffee
Balinese Arabica coffee, well known as Bali Kintamani Coffee, is among the finest Arabica coffee varieties. It has a well-balanced, smooth taste, with subtle acidity and a medium body, winning the tastebuds of Arabica coffee lovers worldwide. Depending on the specific growing region and processing methods, Bali Arabica coffee can be fruity and floral or nutty and chocolaty.
Bali Robusta Coffee
Bali Robusta coffee is typically grown in the lower elevations of the island, in areas with warmer temperatures and more abundant rainfall. You will find Robusta coffee plantations in the southern regions of Bali, especially in the Pupuan Tabanan Bali Subdistrict.
Bali Robusta coffee is stronger with deep notes of dark chocolate, some hints of spices, and earthy undertones. It has a higher caffeine content and a more robust flavor profile than Arabica.
Kopi Luwak: Bali's Most Expensive Coffee
The unique process of making Kopi Luwak
Kopi Luwak, or Civet Coffee, is one of Bali's most unique and expensive coffee products. It is produced using an extraordinary process that involves the Asian palm civet. The civets eat ripe coffee cherries; fermentation occurs as the cherries pass through the digestive system. The beans are then collected from the feces, cleaned, roasted, and ground. This unusual fermentation process lends Kopi Luwak a distinctive flavor and aroma, making it highly sought after by connoisseurs worldwide.
Ethical concerns and alternatives
The production of Kopi Luwak has stirred significant ethical concerns, mainly because of the treatment of the civets. Many producers keep the animals in captivity under poor conditions to increase production. This has led to a call for responsible sourcing and the growth of ethical alternatives, such as cage-free or wild-sourced Kopi Luwak. Organizations and certification bodies are now promoting transparent and humane practices, ensuring that the unique coffee can be enjoyed without compromising animal welfare.
- Grown in nutrient-rich volcanic soil
- Pre-roast beans have unique blue color
- Grown & harvested traditionally
- Rich, robust taste
- Medium to dark roast
- Low acid, gentle on stomach
- Freshly roasted
- Generously sized 12-ounce pack
- Made from 100% Original Arabica Peaberry
- Rich aroma and tantalizing flavor
- Sourced from premium plantation in Sumatra Aceh Gayo
- Offers a taste of authenticity and luxury
- Distinct medium roast profile
- RFA Organic Bali Blue Moon coffee.
- Comes in 72 pod pack.
- Compatible with K Cup brewers.
- Medium roast flavor.
- The flavor of the coffee is distinct and pleasant.
- It is organic and kosher certified.
- The 72 pod pack is convenient for regular users.
- Fits easily into K Cup brewers.
The Balinese Coffee Plantation Environment
Bali is a volcanic island with a diverse topography contributing to varying altitudes across the region. The highland areas, such as Kintamani and Bedugul, are known for their cooler temperatures due to the higher elevations, making them suitable for growing Arabica coffee. In contrast, the lowland regions, like Tabanan and Badung, have warmer temperatures, making them more suitable for cultivating Robusta coffee.
Bali's volcanic soil is rich in nutrients and minerals, making it highly fertile for agriculture. The volcanic eruptions from the nearby Gunung Agung volcano have contributed to the formation of nutrient-rich volcanic ash, which has enriched the soil and provided essential elements for plant growth.
Bali has a tropical climate with two main seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season typically lasts from April to October, with lower humidity and less rainfall. The rainy season occurs from November to March, characterized by higher humidity and frequent rain. The combination of warm temperatures, ample rainfall, and consistent humidity creates favorable conditions for coffee plants to thrive.
Balinese Coffee Culture
The place of coffee in Balinese society
Coffee holds a central role in Balinese society, often serving as a symbol of hospitality, community, and tradition. In Bali, the act of sharing a cup of coffee is not just a casual encounter but a cherished social ritual that connects people. The local coffee shops, known as "warungs," are popular gathering spots where friends, family, and neighbors come together to enjoy coffee and engage in conversation. Coffee is an essential part of various ceremonies and festivals, signifying warmth and unity. From the delicate preparation process to the art of sipping, every aspect of coffee consumption in Bali reflects the island's rich cultural heritage.
The traditional ceremony of coffee making and consumption
The traditional ceremony of coffee making in Bali is a meticulous process that reflects the island's deep spiritual beliefs. The beans are usually handpicked, roasted over an open fire, and then ground using a stone mortar and pestle. The coffee is often brewed with various spices and herbs, symbolizing the Balinese connection with nature. Drinking coffee traditionally involves a communal setting, where the brew is shared among family or community members. Ceremonial cups and carefully orchestrated manners of serving and drinking are an integral part of the process. The blend of sensory pleasure and spiritual connection in Balinese coffee culture makes it a unique experience.
Harvesting and Processing Techniques
The coffee production in Bali is dominated by over 3,000 small-scale farmers, who are organized into approximately 60 traditional groups called “subak abian.” They shape the coffee industry in a positive way as they set standards on production and processing methods.
Harvesting and processing techniques are crucial stages in coffee production that directly impact the quality and flavor of the final coffee beans. Here's an overview of the common harvesting and processing techniques used in Bali:
- Selective Picking: This method involves carefully hand-selecting only the ripest coffee cherries from the coffee plants. Skilled pickers selectively harvest the red, fully ripe cherries, ensuring that underripe or overripe cherries are left on the tree. This method is commonly used for higher-quality coffees like Arabica.
- Strip Picking: In strip picking, the entire crop of coffee cherries is harvested from the tree in one go, regardless of ripeness. This method, mostly used to harvest robusta coffee, is quicker and more efficient, making it suitable for larger plantations or lower-grade coffees.
Wet Processing (Washed Method): This method involves removing the coffee cherry's skin and pulp before drying the beans.
This is how the process goes:
The outer skin of the cherry is removed using a mechanical de-pulping machine, leaving the beans with a mucilage layer. This process is called de-pulping. Then the beans are fermented in water tanks for about 12-48 hours so the beans can soak the sugars. After fermentation, the beans are thoroughly washed to clean and prepare them for drying.
Dry Processing (Natural Method): Dry processing, also known as the natural method, involves drying the whole coffee cherries with the fruit intact.
The drying process goes as follows:
The coffee cherries are spread out in the sun on raised drying beds or patios to dry. They are turned regularly for even drying and to prevent fermentation or molds from forming. Once the cherries have dried to the desired moisture content, the outer skin and pulp are removed through hulling to expose the coffee beans.
Buying and Brewing Bali Coffee
The best way to brew Bali coffee ultimately depends on your personal taste preferences and the type of coffee beans you have. That being said, here are some popular brewing methods that work well with Bali coffee:
- Pour-Over: Pour-over brewing allows for precise control over the brewing process and highlights the delicate flavors of Bali Arabica coffee. Use a medium-grind size, fresh water just off the boil, and pour in a slow, circular motion to ensure even extraction.
- French Press: French press brewing is suitable for both Bali Arabica and Robusta beans, as it results in a full-bodied and rich cup. Use a coarse grind, steep the coffee with hot water for about 4 minutes, then plunge the press.
- Espresso Machine: If you can access an espresso machine, you can enjoy a rich and intense shot of Bali coffee. Espresso brings out the unique characteristics of the coffee beans, and it's an excellent choice for Bali Arabica and Robusta. Adjust the grind size, brewing time, and pressure to achieve the desired flavor profile.
- Moka Pot: The Moka pot, or stovetop espresso maker, is a classic brewing method that produces a strong and flavorful coffee. It works well with Bali Robusta beans, as it enhances the coffee's bold and intense characteristics.
Balinese coffee, with its intricate cultural rituals, unique brewing methods, and distinctive flavors, offers an extraordinary experience that transcends mere taste. It represents a harmonious blend of tradition, nature, and community, reflecting the island's spiritual essence. Whether it is the everyday connection at local warungs or the luxury of Kopi Luwak, Bali's coffee culture invites a deeper understanding of the human connection to the land and each other.