Sulawesi Coffee Areas: A Sweet Maria’s Travelogue

I was in coffee areas of Sulawesi that I have not visited before, gaining some new insight on how coffee is traded and shuffled around Indonesia.

Sometimes it’s possible to learn more from the periphery than the center. With Sulawesi, this inversion is doubly true: It seems a lot of the coffee supposedly growing in the well known areas actually comes from those peripheral zones, unbeknownst to most buyers.

We traveled to the areas around Malino and Sinjai, my first time to this southeastern growing area which is sometimes traded under the name Malakaji after the market town. The name is unknown in the consumer market or even among coffee buyers.

But in fact coffee from this area is sold as many things; low grade commercial arabica, Toraja, Celebes, or basically any other coffee name in Indonesia that brings in a premium price. Sumatra Mandheling, Bali, Java etc.

Much of the coffee here isn’t treated well, strip picked green, or as I hear, actually chemically ripened using a compound called, dreadfully, “carbide” (calcium carbide).

The sad thing is, the coffee in the area can be great! If picked ripe, dried well, processed with care, it’s wonderful coffee (which you have seen on our list as Sulawesi Topidi, for example). All this underscores the importance of how we already work here, direct with farmers and farmer groups.

6 Responses

  1. Great pictures and a good look into Sulawesi! Years ago I bought some Sulawesi beans from Sweet Marias and loved the resultant coffee. As typical, when I went back to get more they were all gone! Thanks for the tour.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the photolog (and coffee!). We should have more Sulawesi coffee in a couple of months 🙂

      Best,
      Dan

  2. Always enjoy Tom’s travelog and there’s always something new to learn from it. Enjoyed the recent podcast with Luxia as well.
    The dessert (not a juice) is most likely, Cendol with glutinous black rice as topping. It can also be Dawet (made from rice flour), but looking at the color and consistency, most likely Cendol (made from MungBeans flour).

    The modded transformers vespa culture is harder to explain in comment section.. Haha..

    1. Thank you for the insight on the desert! Appreciated … Is there any name for the whole multi-person vespa culture? I am so curious about it.

  3. The one in your picture is a more expensive mod than the many I usually encounter, but I guess they still fall under Vespa Gembel (roughly, Hobo/Tramp’s Vespa). For many Vespa Gembel, it’s not only about modification but a whole lifestyle. Many of em are modern nomads, livin in their Vespa traveling from island to island. I met a Vespa Gembel family from Solok in a beach near Manado! This Vespa looks more like an outrigger boat but with 12 tires (or was it 14)… Yeah, they’re an interesting community but not sure you can find many in English online, NatGeo has one article I believe.

    1. Thanks – that’s exactly what I was trying to find out. I too noted how much more “professional” this vespa was than others I have seen. It’s actually really well put together, plus they were wearing helmets!

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