This post was last updated on May 23rd, 2020 at 07:31 pm
Sulawesi coffee beans (also called “Toraja”) are one of the gems of the Pacific coffee-growing world. Wildly grown, difficult to find, and extremely flavorful.
Finding a good cup of Sulawesi coffee is the perfect challenge for any coffee lover looking for an adventure. In this article, we show you exactly why this coffee is so special.
Facts About Sulawesi Coffee
The island of Sulawesi is part of Indonesia – one of the top 5 coffee-producing countries in the world. But coffee is not native to this nation with its multiple islands, and the history of the plant’s arrival on the islands within the Malaysian archipelago is often unclear.
It was probably in the 17th century that the coffee plants were initially brought to the region. They were first planted in Jakarta by the colonial Dutch, who thought they could create a thriving business in the coffee-friendly climate. The Dutch settlers’ experiment was a success, and over time, the plants were moved to other islands, including the large island of Sulawesi (then known as Celebes), which was in the center of the archipelago.
This former island name, along with the Toraja region and the town of Kalossi, borrowed their names from the coffee produced there. These are names like Sulawesi, Sulawesi Toraja, Celebes Kalossi, etc. Often these names refer to specific regions where the beans come from (more on that below), but sometimes they are used to refer to coffee from the island itself.
What Does the Coffee Taste Like?
Sulawesi coffee can be on the lighter, more acidic side compared to other archipelago coffees. Think for example of Sumatran coffee, which is generally very full and has low acidity.
For the sake of clarity, this does not mean that Sulawesi is a light, clear, or sour coffee. On the contrary, it is still a very rich, dark, and pleasant variation. Sulawesi is strong, spicy, and full of life.
Sulawesi Toraja Coffee Flavor
- Aroma: Nutty and chocolatey
- Flavor: Low to medium acidity; silky, creamy, heavy texture; warm overtones of cinnamon, cardamom and other spices; subtle hints of fruit and dark chocolate
- Aftertaste: Smooth
Other Facts About Sulawesi Coffee
The Cultivation and Processing of the Coffee
The coffee is generally grown on small plots and on family farms, some of which are more than 1,800 meters above sea level.
It is harvested in late spring and early to mid-summer. Many of these factors combined give the Sulawesi beans a unique flavor and ensure that coffee is available in small quantities and that there is high demand in the international market.
Sulawesi coffee is generally processed according to the fairly new wet-peeling method, which has become very popular in the region. This is largely due to the necessity, as humidity and rainfall can complicate the typical long drying process.
Best Types of Coffee
There are many different coffee-producing regions spread across Sulawesi, but two stand out from the rest of the island.
Sulawesi Toraja Coffee
Much Sulawesi coffee is grown in and around the mountainous area of Toraja. It is one of the most famous coffee-producing regions of Sulawesi and Indonesia in general, with a number of high-quality beans. You can not get this coffee everywhere because the demand is very high.
Sulawesi Kalossi Coffee
Another coffee found in one of the highlands not far from Toraja is Kalossi coffee. Grown in the southeastern part of the island, Kalossi is named after the nearby town of Kalossi. Again, this variation on the Sulawesi coffee bean is one of the most delectable types of coffee the island has to offer. It has very low acidity, an earthy fullness, and a smooth finish.
What do these two regions have in common? They are both located in higher elevations of Sulawesi, giving them an edge over many of the other coffees grown at lower elevations.
The Current Situation of the Coffee Industry in Sulawesi
Many of the farms on Sulawesi are located in the highlands of the island, including the main areas of Toraja, Kalossi, and Mamasa (the latter producing the lowest quality of the beans at high altitude). The rest of the lower altitude beans are also of a lower quality, which is not surprising since coffee grows best higher up.
The island’s coffee culture is robust, with Sulawesi producing a large amount of coffee and fully participating in Indonesia’s huge contribution to the coffee world. However, many parts of the cultivation, processing, trade, and transport processes still have important factors that aren’t properly worked out yet. Extremely localized in its nature and barely organized on a large scale like in Kenya or Rwanda, farmers generally grow small numbers of haphazard coffee plants and sell the harvested beans to collectors who pass them on, making quality difficult to predict without proper supervision.
For consumers, this means choosing your Sulawesi coffee beans with care. You should pay attention to the region or city of the island they come from and make sure that the online seller only works with reputable farms.
How to Prepare Sulawesi Coffee
While the rich and full flavor of Sulawesi beans work in most forms of preparation, they are best for espresso. The darkness and deep earthiness of the flavors go perfectly with a well-drawn espresso or even a cup of coffee made with a Moka pot.
As for roasting Sulawesi coffee, most will opt for a dark roast to bring out the earthy flavors, so this is the most common option. Of course, you can still try lighter and medium roast profiles, all of which bring out different aspects of the rich and varied flavors.
However, be careful not to roast these beans too much. They tend to show their roasted color more slowly than other beans, making it difficult to predict how far they are in the roasting process. The trick is not to worry too much about their appearance. Instead, stick to that second crack (if you don’t stop earlier) and make small adjustments with future beans from there.
And that is our overview of the coffee grown on the island of Sulawesi. This rich, earthy, full-bodied coffee has captivated drinkers for generations and is one of the best beans you can use when brewing coffee. If you can find them, of course.