The day is still dark when I join the excursion courtesy of Travel People Indonesia. Kennita and Stephie are really nice for arranging the tour. We leave Jakarta as early as 5-6 AM and arrive around 10-11 AM at Malabar Mountain Coffee, Marga Mulya village, Pangalengan, about 1 hour from Bandung.

A little history of coffee in Java, it is considered an almost everyone’s drink, especially if you’re burning the midnight oil so to speak (like me. heh). The arabica type, Malabar, is brought by the Netherlands from Malabar area in South India to be cultivated in Java during the colonial. It was the largest export at the time to Europe under the VOC (Verininging Oogst Indies Company) flag. So famous is coffee when the Europeans order they ask for a cup of Java. Decades later, some islands in Indonesia still produce various types of arabica and robusta coffee, most notably Sumatra, Java, Toraja, Bali etc. Indonesia is no. #3 country to produce and export coffee around the world.

After breakfast and coffee of course, Mr. T.Syam Arif, or Mr. Asep take us to the coffee hills. Along the way, the view is breathtaking. Check out the Preanger mountainous and hills of tea plantation as the eyes can see.

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That breakfast and coffee really helps hiking up the hills!Along the way, we meet the farmers and berry pickers from the village. The Malabar Arabica coffee is cultivated at 1400 m above sea level on a 70 hectare land. There are around 230.000 coffee trees with variety from LS 795, Sigarar Utang, Timtim, Kartika, Ateng and Andungsari with quality certification.

Picking up the coffee cherry has its own technique! During the harvest time, pickers like the ladies above and us of course, should only pick the ripe ones. The indication is how cherry red all around and try not to take the stem along. Because the stem will yield fruits again next time. The select harvest or selectively picked (panen pilih) will ensure quality and next production.

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There are 3 types of after harvest process; fully washed, semi-washed (and honey process) and natural process.

The Natural process is quite straight forward but it takes longer time around 25+ days, depend on the drying process, either under the sun or under the roof. Drying under the sun also takes time for the pulping and fermentation to take place Naturally. Workers need to turn the coffee beans around and around to dry evenly.

We’re lucky to get the whole process for the Fully Washed. After harvesting, the cherries are washed and enter the pulping process. As explain by Mr. Dedy, the pulping process is to separate the beans from the cherry and wash using the water pressure.

The difference from fully-washed and semi-washed is on the process after pulping. Semi washed use less water because after pulping, the fermentation is left with the mucilage still intact (honeyed process) and dried until the water is 40%, then washed, after that dried again until they get the green bean with the water content up to 11 – 13%.

On the fully washed process, the beans are through the process of fermentation using a large body of water in a large basin until the beans loose it’s slimy layer. After the fermentation and wash, the beans are dried.

Back at the factory, Mr. Irwan explain that after drying process, the coffee beans go to the hulling process to remove the last layer.

The beans then sorted to be stored according quality and class.The coffee classification is determined by the shape and character of the coffee after the whole process. For example, outstanding quality class has the score of 90 to 100, specialty score 80 to 90 and premium around 70 to 80. Commercial class usuall around 55-ish.

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The next process is roasting. Mr. Irwan take us the the roasting machine and go through with several level of roasting stages such as light, medium and dark roast. The type of roasting also determine the acidity, body, taste, flavor, aroma and colour. Americans, he said, prefer the medium roast with less acidity but still have distinctive character. The European people prefer dark roast for the bitter taste, strong aroma but less acidity and little character for espresso coffee.

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The first roasting phase is from the green bean to amber colour, when it starts to have a light brown sheen, the sugar content begin caramelisation process and is called cinnamon phase. The coffee beans shrink and gave the first crack. Usually it’s ready to drink in medium roast with the coffee character still intact but the acidity is less. In a few seconds only, the colour change into darker brown and second crack happen. The process have several shades of dark brown until they become dark roast with bitter taste.

Back to the main office/house, we are treated for tasting, or Cupping to determine the quality, type by blind testing. Coffee lovers can use their scent of smell and tongue to score each qualification and rate them according to class. The aroma is different before and after pouring hot water according Mr. Asep.

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We take the smelling and tasting process again and again, amateur coffee taster that we are, and tally up the score from the aroma, body and flavour. Here are the cheat sheet for each glass: A. blue, B. fully washed, C. premium blend. D. honeyed process, E. specialty blend EP, F. natural process.

Mr. Asep mention storage tip for freshness, for example, coffee beans can retain freshness up to 3 to 4 months, compare to the grind coffee (1 to 2 months) because when grind, coffee will have more oxygen and is not as fresh.

Last tip to brew coffee manually using V60:

  1. If possible, the glass should be warm
  2. The temperature for the hot water is around 92 to 98 celcious
  3. The thickness and bitterness of the coffee depend on the roughness of the ground coffee and/or the filter
  4. The standard in MM Coffee is 1:10 formula, which is 1 gram of coffee with 10 ml or water
  5. The brewing takes about 1 to 3 minutes depend on the coffee, filter and pouring the water

Company: Malabar Mountain Coffee
PT Sinar Mayang Sari
Jl. Kp Cigendel RT.03/12, Margamulya Village, Pangalengan,
Bandung District 40378, West Java, Indonesia
Phone & Fax: +62 22 5979206
E-mail: coffee@malabarmountain.com