Posts Tagged With: coffee

Jungle Kopi Culture – Sampling Indonesia’s coffee revolution

Traditional village - Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Traditional village – Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

There are so many striking things about Indonesia; the people are so friendly, warm and welcoming, the incredibly diverse cultures are ancient and fascinating, the landscape varied, and jaw dropping and somewhere steaming away in this heady mix is the coffee, something of a superstar in the waiting.

Of all the coffee giants in the world; Latin America, Africa, India etc, I feel Indonesia is slightly overlooked. Especially Sulawesi. You may see some packs of Java beans out there, but nothing much else. The variety of Indonesia’s coffee cornucopia is poorly represented and we’re missing out big time.

Indonesia has the perfect conditions for coffee (and cacao) growing.  Coffee and chocolate, what a combo!  There is a youthful espresso fuelled movement swinging into existence bringing quality coffee back to it’s roots and cherries, so to speak. Led by the sprawling megalopolis that is Jakarta, there is a growing trendy cafe culture over here, hip and buzzing, Indonesians are getting to enjoy their coffee and not just export it away.  We have been lucky to sample a bewildering array of brews and take in some plantations, each island produces very different styles of beans, within those islands are various regions, each with their own character and the tumbling coffee kaleidescope continues.

Perfect cremas are not always the case though. Many Indonesians don’t drink coffee as we Euro coffee snobs like it. The local brew is something like a long Greek/ Turkish coffee. Needing a few minutes to settle into a dark cuppa with some funky sludge greeting you towards the latter stages. It is normally pretty decent, better than packet instant, but this new roasted and toasted trend is very exciting.  Young guys with hipster quiffs and girls wearing brightly coloured hijabs let loose on Italian-made coffee machines to extract the maximum wow and yum. Jakarta is filling up with bespoke cafes and the big chains are lumbering in; Starclucks are making their insidious presence felt and bizarrely use beans from Guatemala!! Speaks volumes.

Jack fruit burger with sweet potato fries- It's not just the coffee that awesome in Indonesia

Jack fruit burger with sweet potato fries- It’s not just the coffee that awesome in Indonesia

TANA TORAJA – A COFFEE AFICIONADO”S PARADISE

So Toraja is a remote region in Central Sulawesi, one of the largest islands in Indonesia, roughly the same size as France and basically, one big jungle. Toraja is reached by spectacularly rutted and windy roads, a mountainous region famous over here for producing some of the best Arabica in the country and is also home to an incredible tribal culture (see here).

Coffee is not a big deal in Toraja, they may drink it occasionally and most of the traditional houses in villages (see the top photo) had a little ornate wooden pot full of ground coffee. The beans are normally roasted in a steel pan over an open fire, which leads to inconsistent heat and inevitably a mixture of burnt and raw beans. I have tried roasting beans using this method in Luzon, Philippines and is seems that no matter how much care you take, there is little chance of avoiding charred bits with pale interiors. This could be why the Torajan’s didn’t generally cherish their beans.  The same could be said of cacao (chocolate beans) which also grows everywhere, their brilliantly red and yellow pods poking out of the canopy.

A friend told me about a Belgian couple who brought some local people a selection of fine European chocolates. The village Torajan’s were amazed that these bitter little beans had been fashioned into something so delicious. A chocolate revolution is surely the next step for Indonesia’s foodie folk, probably with some cacao smoothies along the way.

Some many Indonesia varieties to choose from, freshly ground to order

Some many Indonesia varieties to choose from, freshly ground to order

One of the largest towns in Toraja is Rantepao and this is were we met two of our coffee superheroes, Mika and Eli. Eli runs a tiny coffee roasting business and cafe with his wife, Kaana Toraya Coffee, using a perfectly eclectic range of machinery that he built himself and techniques he learnt from a Hawaiian tourist in the early 90’s. Eli has made two roasters, the largest one powered by a large water wheel. A stroke of engineering genius. It is very peaceful to sit and watch it in action. The sound of flowing water and the tantalising aromas of coffee beans roasting. The equipment may look a little basic and battered in places, but the outcome is sensational and very high quality. We tried the traditional style of beans, dried leaving the husks on and also the standard washed style bean that we are familiar with, but then the bombshell came calling, Hani! Hani is a technique that I feel would be huge in the coffee shops and nooks of Europe and beyond.

Elli's water wheel powered coffee roaster. Ingenius!

Elli’s water wheel powered coffee roaster. Ingenius!

HANI – A NEW STYLE OF COFFEE

The word sounds like honey and the flavour is like honey, much sweeter and fragrant than a washed bean. It is achieved by leaving the natural juices, released by the coffee berries when being picked and processed, on the coffee bean when drying (over here this is generally done on huge racks under the sun or in small quantities by the side of the road). This means that the berry is darker in colour. Dried pre-roast coffee beans are actually a yellowy green colour. These hani beans smell strongly of honey! It’s magic!! Especially for a vegan!!!

Eli and his wife kindly sold us a small bag of Hani for our backpacks, we are travelling with a little cafetiere contraption that means when we get a bit remote mountain cave or deserted island hammock we can still enjoy a top cup of joe. Eli loves exporting his families organic, hand picked coffee all around the world, if you’re in the business, you’ve got to try some Hani beans! Something truly unique. Also, you will never find a man who smiles more than Eli. Its highly infectious:)

Eli's extra special 'hani' coffee - tastes like honey

Eli’s extra special ‘hani’ coffee – tastes like honey

After being immersed in the full coffee story, from bush to mug, we felt like a little sunset stroll around town. Rantepao is a dusty little place, clustered around a busy main thoroughfare. Tourism has made it’s presence felt and there are a couple of biggish hotels, normally catering for large tour groups. There is an impressive protestant church beside a slightly larger bright green mosque, there is a bustling bazaar selling everything from knocked off Rip Curl t-shirts to locally grown spices and finely carved machetes. On each street corner you’ll find the ubiquitous fried snack vendour, giant pans of oil bubbling away inches from frantic swathes of traffic. Pisang Goreng (Fried Bananas wrapped in a light pastry) are famous here and served in a number of ways, all sweet and tantalising. You’ve also got the usual piles of battered tempeh, tofu, corn fritters and sometimes chicken.

We were enjoying the energy and smiles encountered, many children and teenagers were practicing for their Independence day parades, something like a mass cheerleader-athon mixed with an army cadet march. All mini well pressed uniforms, papier machete tanks and tiara clad back flips. Many proud parents watching on beside Denis’s Massage Parlour, Jane and I causing minor waves of excitement, everyone shouting “Mr, Mr, hey Mr”.  This is a normal reaction to tourists in Indonesia.  Jane is also a Mr it seems! We have now posed for hundreds of selfies which, most of the time, is a real laugh.

From bush to cup, you get the whole coffee experience in Indonesia

From bush to cup, you get the whole coffee experience in Indonesia

JAK KOFFIE – JIMI HENDRIX & AMERICANO

It was by pure chance that we found Jak coffee, not much more than a doorway on a side street. The brilliant graffiti caught our attention. We instantly realised that it was a special little place, the decor was really cool and Mika (the main man) had the biggest, warmest smile on his face. It is not uncommon in Indonesia to find cafes with rows of jars, filled with freshly roasted beans to choose. A rare treat for sure! Mika was playing some great tunes and had painted a large picture of Jimi Hendrix on the wall. Never a bad interior design idea!  The walls are lined with Mika’s work, he’s really a photographer moonlighting as a barista, plus the occasional antique lampshade or red phone.

Mika is very knowledgeable about most things it seems and spoke passionately about local history and culture, bringing life to it all, we learnt more in 1 hour than we did in 1 month of travel. This was the real story of Indonesia, right now, from the people creating the new waves and shapes.  My Americano was mindblowing; rich and deep, made with organic beans from the East of Toraja. Maybe you think a cup of coffee cannot border on or even tickle the mindblowing.  This was a coffee bomb!!  The flavours and aromas were intense.  Having said that, it was my fourth coffee of the afternoon and most things were a little intense.  Mika picks and chooses who he buys from, keeping things fresh, organic and interesting.  I have never seen someone take so much care over making a coffee.  The process elevated to an art form.

Jimi

Jimi

‘NO COFFEE MAFIA PLEASE!’

You have probably not heard about Torajan coffee, primarily because large corporations from Japan and China buy it all up and make it into generic rubbish. This obviously means that prices are low and farmers suffer. There is no fair trade in these parts. Mika is fighting the good fight himself and attempting to showcase what Toraja can really do, saying “NO coffee mafia please!”  We loved his passion which sparked off in all kinds of directions.  He even had signs (see below).

Mika and his friends also bake some amazing cakes; stout brownies, chocolate croissants. The local crowd are loving to experiment with new styles of cooking. Anyone fancy a croissant sandwich?  This is anti-Starclucks world, local people taking control of their produce and making something bespoke and high quality (and a few bucks) with bags of good ethics and integrity.

No mafia coffee please

No mafia coffee please

Jak Koffie is a slightly surreal experience really (in a good way), it’s like steeping through a hip portal, you feel like you’ve been transported to Soho, London or Gothica, Barcelona.   That is until you step outside and are nearly taken out by a twelve year old on a motorbike eating a fried banana. Mika is like Indonesia’s answer to a fully caffeinated, cheery Che Guevara and I wish him my wholehearted best and hope we’ll soon see the amazing coffee’s of Toraja in more Western shops and cafes.

If you’re in Toraja, Jak cafe is a must. An a urban chic oasis in the endless steaming jungles of Sulawesi. You’ve also got to try Hani coffee, a totally new coffee drinking experience.  Rantepao is a great place to sample the old and new faces of Indonesia as they mingle and take flight.  The only negative that we’ve encountered in Indonesia is a short visa and it’s now leave.  Selamat Tinggal!

Jak coffee - one of the best cafes we visited in Indonesia

Jak Koffie – one of the best cafes we visited in Indonesia

 

Jak has no website yet but you can find more info and contact details here.

Categories: photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

May’s Coffee Challenge – Carvetii Coffee

El Tablon – Carvetti Coffee

The month of May rolls on, punctuated by some very fine coffees.  No more coffee for me in June, we are going totally raw (that means eating food that is not cooked above 40 odd degrees, maintaining nutrients, enzymes etc).  I decided to go out with a bang and fit as much brilliant coffee into May as was feasible to body and mind, gradually reducing my sipping towards the end of the month.  So this is it, the last bag of the month and I couldn’t have wished for a better example of why I love coffee.  It’s a Carvetii Coffee.

Today is a radiant day up here in North Wales, the garden is getting a good dose of sun and we fancied trying a coffee packed full of sunshine.  Any excuse for great coffee!

Carvetii Coffee certainly fits this bill.  They are Gareth and Angharad who run a small coffee roasting company located in the beautiful Lake District, Northern England.   They started off in 2006 with a small cafe in North Wales, then gradually progressed to roasting their own beans, initially on a frying pan in their kitchen!  They only roast in small batches and I love the way that they post the next roast date on their website, meaning you can order super freshly roasted coffee.   They are mad about coffee (in a very good way!).

Carvetii Coffee

The ‘El Tablon‘ coffee has a wonderful aroma, you can smell the honeyed sweetness of the bean when it is being ground.  It is a single origin, ‘micro-lot’ coffee from El Salvador.  ‘Micro-lot’ meaning very small, high quality growing.  The bean used is called the pacamara.  It is honey-processed, resulting in that wonderful sweetness and it is certainly very fruity.  The name of this processing comes from the Spanish word for the flesh of this large variety of coffee bean, ‘miel’ (which interestingly is similar in the Welsh language, ‘mel’).

This is a very high quality cup of coffee, with a very smooth, stylish flavour.  I have  never tried a honey-processed coffee and I am impressed by the unique flavour produced by this technique.

I’m looking forward to more of this wonderful stuff.  It is my birthday on Sunday and I can’t think of a better brew to toast my 34th year.

If you are interested in what the good folk of Carvetii Coffee are up to, have a look at there blog.

Thank you to Gareth and Angharad for your passion and excellence in all things coffee.

Categories: B.H.K Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

May’s Coffee Challenge – Welsh Coffee

We love Wales and feel that the local produce and suppliers just don’t get  the credit they deserve.  There are some amazing producers, doing amazing things with amazing ingredients!  In a way, we are lucky, because many of these Welsh gourmet types are not well-known.  We have them all to ourselves!  One such producer are the good people at Welsh Coffee.

Welsh Coffee

Welsh Coffee are a company from South Wales, producing fair trade coffee in small batches.  They pride themselves on intense coffee that is ‘roaster’ fresh and superior quality.

This month I am dedicating myself to transforming my dining area into a bijou cafe, serving the finest roasts and if I am lucky, a warm piece of Carrot and Bean Cake (see following post).  This is going well, a little Parisian music in the background, some attractive flowers, a nicely cushioned chair, there is just one thing missing, other people.  The atmosphere is a little subdued.

So ‘Builder Steve’ came over yesterday to look at our gable end (we are having damp issues) and I invited him to join me in the newly opened Beach House Cafe (not dissimilar to our dining area with a few bags of coffee scattered around the place) .  He’s a good coffee drinker and likes it black, which to me, is always a good sign.

‘Builder Steve’ is a local legend and one of the most philanthropic folk you are likely to meet.  I decided to crack open some special beans that I’ve been saving for just this kind of moment, our Welsh Coffee Aur (Gold), dragon roasted in Wales from 100% Arabica beans.  I had a feeling this was going to be one hell of a brew…..

Nicaraguan and Panamanian Beans

I ground the beans up, they were dark and shimmering and formed a lovely almost black powder.  The smell of fresh coffee filled the hours for hours after.   The beans for the Aur (Gold in Welsh) coffee are sourced from farmers in Nicaragua and Panama, two countries that we love.

I left it to brew for 5 minutes in our trusty orange cafetiere, the smell was intoxicating.  This dragon coffee is powerful stuff!  It produced a coffee with a deep colour and incredible aroma.  It is medium bodied with a balanced and smooth aftertaste.  This is the kind of coffee that can be enjoyed at any time, anywhere, anyhow!

(A short Welsh language lesson.  Coffee is Coffi in Welsh.  Which is one of the only words I can easily remember.  My Welsh speaking in developing slowly.  I also know the word for Taxi, which is Tacsi.  Poor show really.  I hope to get to some classes soon.  The first Welsh I actually learnt was via a band named  ‘Ffa Coffi Pawb’ (translated ‘Everthing’s Coffee Bean’), this was Gruff Rhys, lead singer with the Super Furry Animals, second band.)

‘Builder Steve’ and I chatted for a while, we talked of wrestling sheep, nuclear war heads being stored in the next village and the sin of damp rendering.  It was almost like a normal cafe experience.  Steve agreed that it was a ‘seriously good’ cup of coffee and a definite step up from the Nescafe he normally drinks on site.  I took this as a glowing reference for these lovely Welsh roasted beans.

Welsh Coffee – Aur (Gold)

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Local food, Wales, Welsh produce | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

May’s Coffee Challenge – Union Hand Roasted Coffee

Union Coffee with my best mug

With our raw food diet starting in June, I am taking time to enjoy my favourite non-raw foodie things.  Coffee being top of the list.  I have set myself the indulgent task of sampling many of my favourite coffees before I go caffeine cold turkey in a few weeks.  I thought I would treat myself to start with by going for one my favourite roasters, Union Coffee.

I have my own little coffee ritual on a daily basis; even when I was super busy down in old London town, I always took time over my coffee.  Coffee time for me is around mid-morning and is always a moment of peace with a revitalising brew.  Even if it’s just a five-minute break, it changes the whole day for the better.

For me, it’s not about that ‘caffeine buzz’ that so many talk about, although it is probably a welcomed side effect most mornings.  Good coffee has a fascinating story and people like Union source and roast only the finest beans from around the world.  When I look at the options, Guatemalan, Rwandan, Indian, Indonesian….I can’t help but get excited.

The quality here comes from dedication and passion, and I see this in the coffees that Union produce.  They care about gourmet coffees produced ethically, it’s not just about the flavour and aroma; it is something that represents the people and environment where it was grown.

Indian Coffee Picker

Living up here in the beautiful wilds of North Wales, good cafes and coffee is thin on the ground.  We have to revert to ‘homebrews’, with our trusty orange cafetière.  This is actually my preferred coffee.  I like a black, long coffee.  No froth.  I had bought my own grinder recently only to find out that a blade grinder is not the best.  It can impair the flavour of the bean by producing heat and an irregular grind.  I have found this to be true; it ruined some great beans from Sheffield recently.  So from now on, I will buy all of my good coffee pre-ground for a cafetière.

To make the perfect pot of cafetière coffee see the guidelines here via the good people of Union.  If you use a filter machine or stove top pot, there are helpful hints here also.  There seems no point in getting the good stuff and ruining it with a dodgy method.

There are so many choices out there for a coffee drinker in the U.K., the selection at supermarkets can be bewildering.  I have found most supermarket bought coffee to be average at best and would much rather spend a little more on mail ordering some of the good stuff.  Worth every penny!

Union build strong relationships with their growers, they were initially inspired by micro-roastery cafes in San Francisco and also felt compelled to improve the difficult situation of growers in many coffee producing regions of the world.

‘Union’ refers to the relationship between the coffee roasters and the hardworking farmers who produce the beans.  They say:

We travel to coffee growing communities in remote regions around the world, building relationships and investing in sustainable livelihoods and farming practices. We discover coffees of distinction by engaging directly with coffee farmers and pair their best work with the art and craft of the coffee roaster.” 

Today I am trying the Bibi Estate AAA Microlot from Karnataka State, India.  This coffee intrigued me as I have visited India and know that there is some decent coffee down in Kerala, but have never tried anything from Karnataka.  India has been making increasingly better coffees in recent years and this one is made from the Arabica Catuai bean.  Bibi Estate is at 1000m above sea level on a 250 acre plantation that also produces peppercorns.

It is a pleasant surprise, a soft and gentle brew.  It has a lovely light nutty aroma and is the perfect mid-morning coffee.  Here is what the official tasters at Union think:

“Overall the cup is mild, with gentle acidity but medium to full-bodied; enjoy the aroma of pecan that follows through into the taste which has praline, toffee honey and ripe mango.”

This is a coffee that can be savoured and is not too overpowering like some of the more heavy weight roasts.

So thanks to the good people of Union for their passion and commitment to gourmet coffee and Mr Faiz Musakutty and his farmers and pickers all they way over there in Karnataka for the beans!

Union have set the bar pretty high here with the Bibi Estate  AAA.   I love their ethos of investing in local, remote farmers to maintain sustainable livelihoods.  I think their passion and integrity can be tasted in every cup.

Calling all coffee lovers and barista brethren: 

May is the month that we seek out the perfect home brew.  We will be sampling different roasts regularly.   

Any recommendations?

Categories: B.H.K Reviews, Breakfast | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: