The Dutch brought coffee to Indonesia in the late 17th century and the Dutch East India Company started exporting coffee from Indonesia to Europe in 1711. In fact, Indonesia was the first place outside of Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula where coffee was widely grown. Ciwidey is a town in the highlands south of Bandung, West Java, where the first Dutch coffee plantations were. Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) predominated in West Java until the late 19th century when an outbreak of coffee leaf rust (a fungal disease) forced farmers to replace many of the highly susceptible arabica plants with more resistant liberica (C. liberica) and robusta (C. canephora). Today, most of Java’s arabica coffee is grown on the eastern end of the island, but some high-quality arabica is still produced in West Java, including in Ciwidey. Several varieties of arabica (including typica) are grown here, and are all generally referred to as Java Preangar (Preangar being the name of the mountainous region of West Java).
Ciwidey is excellently suited for the cultivation of arabica coffee due to its microclimate, volcanic soils, and elevation (coffee here is grown above 1,200 meters above sea level). There are nine coffee trees over 100 years old growing in the forest; the rest of the coffee bushes grow under full sun because new shade trees have only just recently been planted. Most coffee from Ciwidey is wet processed or semi-washed. In the cup, Ciwidey arabica coffee is rich, smooth, relatively full-bodied, and fruity, with medium acidity, and tends to be sweeter and more herbal than arabica from East Java. Locally, coffee is traditionally brewed simply by adding hot water to medium-ground coffee in a large mug or glass. After mixing, the coffee should be left for 3-5 minutes to allow for the grounds to settle and the temperature to cool. It should be drunk carefully so as not to disturb the coffee “mud” at the bottom of the mug. Kopi jahe (hot coffee infused with fresh ginger) is appreciated, especially in cooler areas, for its soothing, warming effect.
There are about 315 hectares of coffee in Ciwidey but only around 20% of this area is well maintained and, in recent years, many farmers have abandoned coffee in favor of vegetable crops. Like many of the other single-origin, high-quality arabicas from West Java, Ciwidey coffee is not particularly well known. Fortunately, coffees from this area are gaining recognition and popularity and are available from some specialty coffee suppliers.