Flores is small by island standards, just about 360 kilometers end to end. It is in the Indonesian archipelago, between Sumbawa and Timor islands. The name Flores is an abbreviation of “Cabo de Flores”; a name used by Portuguese sailors in the 17th century to identify the cape on the eastern end of the islands because of its underwater gardens. Divided by mountain chains and volcanoes, the island populated by ethnic groups with their own traditions and languages. Flores is one island among others that forms the political province called East Nusa Tenggara, a part of Indonesia.
We’ve traveled through the Bajawa and Manggarai areas of Flores several times to meet the farmer cooperatives that supply us. While they are experimenting with honey / pulp natural coffees and other processes, we like the wet-process Flores flavor profile most. The farmers are increasingly focused on better picking and processing, resulting in ever increasing cup quality! It has the potential to be a clean, sweet cup, with good syrupy body, and a clean taste overall.
Predominantly Catholic, the people of Flores have retained several aspects of the Portuguese culture, such as the Easter parade held annually at Larantuka, and the Royal Regalia of the former King of Sikka. The coffee areas are modest in altitude.
The highest peak is just 1736 meters above sea level (MASL). Much coffee comes from areas around 1000 -1200 meters. The milling tradition is wet-process, so this coffee bears some resemblance to the coffees of Timor-Leste, and Java, more than to the semi-washed coffees of Sumatra and Sulawesi.
But there are historically some issues with the processing practices used here, and consistency of the lots. Coffee might be picked on day, but not immediately processed until 1 or 2 days later. This results in off, fermenty flavors. The farmers also ferment coffee in inconsistent batches on an irregular basis, not a bad thing in itself if it was only done to the same standards each time.
Fermenting times depend on temperature, in some cold, high-altitude locations 36 hours is needed, whereas lower, hotter climates can require just 8-12 hours. Flores can be quite warm, yet they ferment coffee sometimes for 3-4 days! This also results in off fruity notes.
But on the cooperative level there has been much more training in better processing methods in recent years, a focus on quality. Now we do consistently find good batches of coffee from Flores, and we are working with a group who provides farmer training in hopes of better quality processing, and more consistent quality.
Before the Asian Tsunami of Dec. 2004, there was a smaller but no less devastating one off of Flores. An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 occurred just off the north coast of the eastern part of Flores Island on December 12, 1992. This shock was felt on the island of Bali, 700 km to the west. It set off a series of tsunamis, which arrived on the shores of Flores as shortly as two minutes after the initial shock, and which reached every part of the north shore within five minutes. The epicenter was located approximately 35 km NW of Maumere, which is the largest city on the island. 1690 people were killed and 18,000 homes were destroyed.