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Feeding The Nation

Brewing in Banyuwangi

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Banyuwangi Arabica, Indonesia’s current hottest brew, leaves a lasting aftertaste on the palates of coffee lovers everywhere. Colours speaks with a purveyor and expert of Banyuwangi coffee, Setiawan Subekti, to learn more.

Interview by Agung Pramudyo

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The first coffee shop, Kiva Han, opened in Constantinople in 1453, and now, with some 400 billion cups consumed each year, coffee has become the world’s most popular drink.

First known in Europe as ‘Arabian wine’, coffee was transplanted to the Indonesian archipelago in the 17th century by means of Dutch and British colonial trade. Since then coffee has woven itself into the lives of Indonesians from the easternmost tip of Sabang to the westernmost edge of the archipelago in Merauke. In fact, coffee is one of the most important contributors to the Indonesian economy from the agricultural sector, with Indonesia currently the fourthlargest coffee producer in the world after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia.

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While there’s no place on the podium yet for Indonesia in terms of volume, the varieties of coffee produced by this archipelagic nation can overwhelm even the most discerning of aficionados. Sumatran Mandheling, Blue Batak, Aroma Toba, Aceh Gayo, Java, Preanger, Toraja, Lintong, Kalosi, Flores Bajawa, Wamena and, of course, the most
expensive, Luwak, are only some of the country’s premium coffees that have enjoyed widespread popularity.

Recently, a new variant from East Java has been stealing the spotlight. Banyuwangi coffee, with its low acidity and medium body, has become an instant favourite among the caffeine community.

“Coffee grown in highland areas develops unique flavours. This is especially true for Banyuwangi arabica,” says Setiawan Subekti, professional coffee tester and owner of Sanggar Genjah Arum cultural centre.

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“Additionally, most coffee plantations in Banyuwangi are facing east, providing the plants with the first light and the sea breeze in the morning and the sulfur aroma at night. As a result, Banyuwangi coffee has a distinct flavour that sits well on most palates, from amateur coffee lovers to the most informed connoisseur.”

Iwan, as Subekti prefers to be called, is himself a well-known Banyuwangi coffee producer, most renowned for his Kopai Osing coffee, which is grown in his home base of Desa Kemiren. Besides producing his own brews, Iwan has also been actively promoting the traditional art of coffee making to local and foreign visitors. “I have been promoting the traditional way of making coffee to reach all levels of society. Using traditional equipment they can roast the coffee and the end result will not be much different from those processed by machines,” he says. “The coffee tour we offer gives visitors a glimpse into how coffee is made, from planting, to harvesting and roasting until it reaches your cup.”

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So, how to best enjoy a cup of Indonesian coffee? “It actually depends on each individual, but to get the best experience, smell the wafting aroma first, then sip. A good coffee should have a lasting aftertaste on your tongue and palate,” he advises. Of Indonesia’s close to 1 million hectares of productive coffee plantations, 11,000 hectares are in Banyuwangi. And with Garuda Indonesia’s direct flights to Banyuwangi, and the upcoming Banyuwangi Ethno Carnival happening on November 12, this just might be the perfect time to explore this city’s local arts, culture and flavourful brews.

 

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Setiawan Subekti

Setiawan Subekti’s love for coffee has inspired him to travel the world, just to taste its different varieties. He is currently noted as one of the world’s leading coffee testers from Indonesia. He has dedicated much energy and effort
throughout his life to ensure that the coffee of Indonesia is known for its incredible quality, comparable to the world’s best from other regions.