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Bali Travel Guide

Coffee in Bali – All you need to know.

By 31st May 2013 8 Comments

Here at Vilondo we love our Bali coffee; whether the cup is brewed with finesse by a hip barista in one of the cafés in Ubud or it’s an old fashioned Bali coffee brewed with water from the kettle enjoyed at home overlooking the rice fields; coffee time is a favorite time of the day.

Bali Coffee
We know a lot of you appreciate a good cup too, so we decided to look a bit more into Balinese coffee and share it with you in this guide. Not being experts on the subject ourselves, we asked David Sullivan and Rodney Glick from Seniman Coffee Studio in Ubud for a help. These guys are very passionate about coffee and know all that is worth knowing and luckily they were willing to share their knowledge.

Let’s start with the beginning.

We know a lot of you appreciate a good cup too, so we decided to look a bit more into Balinese coffee and share it with you in this guide. Not being experts on the subject ourselves, we asked David Sullivan and Rodney Glick from Seniman Coffee Studio in Ubud for a help. These guys are very passionate about coffee and know all that is worth knowing and luckily they were willing to share their knowledge.

Let’s start with the beginning.

Coffee Dude2

A bit of Bali coffee history

Unlike most other places in Indonesia, like Java and Sumatra, coffee growing in Bali wasn’t established by the Dutch. Instead we can thank traders from Lombok for the coffee growing in Bali today, as it was them who brought the first coffee plants to Bali in the beginning of the 20th century.

The rich volcanic soil and the climate in the Kintamani region quickly proved ideal for coffee growing and small scale production rapidly spread.

The variant the Lombok traders brought to Bali was the Robusta coffee, a sort of coffee that is highly resistant to diseases and contains a high level of caffeine.

Coffee growing in Bali today

The Kintamani region in the north eastern part of Bali is still Bali’s primary coffee growing region and Robusta that is still widely grown accounts for the major part of the production in Bali, all though Arabica is becoming more and more common. Arabica has a stronger body and less acid than Robusta and gives higher prices on the worlds coffee markets, which is the reason why many farmers start growing Arabica.

In 2008 Kuntamini Arabica received an official Geographical Indication (GI) certification. A certification that guarantees that the coffee lives up to certain quality standards, similar to certifications known from locally produced wines and cheeses.

Most of Bali’s coffee is grown by small local farmers organized in Subak Abians. Subaks originate from rice production and is an organization where farmers within the same trade join forces and cooperate about the technical, social and religious aspects related to farming. The Subaks operate after the Balinese Tri Hita Karana philosophy that focuses on keeping harmony and balance between humans and God, human to human and between humans and the environment. A concept that fits well with popular terms like fairtrade and organic production, but was common pratice in Bali a long time before those terms were invented.

Taste and character of Coffee in Bali

Coffee Brewing At Seniman Coffee Studio.1

One of the characteristics of Bali coffee compared to other Indonesian coffees is the processing method. Wet processing is the traditional way of coffee processing in Bali while dry processing is the most common method on the other Indonesian islands. In wet-processing the fruit covering the coffee bean (it is actaully the seed) is removed before the beans are dried, in contradiction to dry-processing where the entire coffee cherry is being dried.

When asking Rodney Glick, Coffee Master at Seniman Coffee Studio, how he would describe coffee from Bali compared to other Indonesian coffees he answered:

“A wet-processed Bali coffee is so much brighter and high-toned than other coffees from the region; it’s hard to compare them. It definitely has the fruit flavors found in Java, Timor and Flores coffees, but bears little resemblance to Sulawesi or Sumatra coffees (except for the rare wet-process coffees from those origins).”

A couple of tips on how to brew the perfect Bali coffee

We were also interested in knowing how to get the best out of our coffee when brewing it at home. Here is what Rodney had to say about that:

“Use freshly roasted coffee and make your drink in whatever way you wish. There is the choice of Arabic or Robusta beans. Seniman exclusively use arabica for their broader range of flavour. The result, along with trial and error, should be good as long as the basic material the ‘Coffee’ is roasted well, fresh and stored correctly.

A key tip is to grind before you brew to retain freshness, grind according to the brew type; coarse will release less strength than fine, but coarse can also give better flavour when brewed correctly.

Try and find the best ratio of coffee to water volume which again depends on brew style – lots of variables! Experiment one variable at a time to see what tastes best.”

Cafés and coffee produces in Bali

Our favorite cafés in Bali
Below some of the places we trust when in need of a good cup of coffee in Bali.
Seniman coffee studio, Ubud
When coffee is being brewed; Seniman resembles a laboratory rather than a café. The coffee and food servings are artistic, but most importantly the tastes are great. Seniman coffee studio regularly arranges coffee workshops and visits to coffee plantations.


F.R.E.A.K coffee, Ubud
F.R.E.A.K is small cozy place on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud that you can easily miss. The name is short for Fresh Roasted “Enak” Arabica from Kintamani, so what you get is fresh roasted local coffee. Try their specialty – the cold pressed.



Anomali coffee, Seminyak and Ubud
Anomoli coffee started out in Jakarta but now have branches in Seminyak and Ubud. More like a traditional café compared to the two others, but they do serve some fine coffee.

Web: anomalicoffee.com

Not so long ago almost all coffee brewed in Bali was the kind where hot water and the fine grinded coffee is mixed directly in the cup, leaving a brown muddy looking substance at the bottom of the cup after you had emptied it. Some find it hard to enjoy this kind of coffee and luckily for them a lot has happened on Bali’s coffee scene recently.

More and more cafés in Bali has started taking pride in the coffee they serve, so getting a good cup of coffee in Bali is a lot easier than it used to be. Especially in Ubud cafés serving good coffee are easy to find, but also in other parts of the islands good coffee places are popping up. The best way to find a good local coffee provider is to go exploring and try out a few placesin the area you live. You can also have a look at the boxed text where we have highlighted some of our favorite coffee shops in Bali.

Apart from visiting a café a good coffee experience in Bali can be to visit a plantation. Several of the subaks welcome visitors and are eager to show and tell how they produce their coffee. Most of them will also offer you a taste. Several tour operators arrange tours to plantations or you can rent a car and go exploring in the Kintamani region by yourself.

A note on Kopi Luwak – Bali’s most expensive coffee

Kopi Luwak is coffee brewed on beans that has been through the digestion system of a civet – a cat like mostly nocturnal mammal. The civets eat the coffee cherries for their fleshy pulp, but the beans are left intact all the way through the digestion system. The enzymes inside the civet’s stomach extract the bitterness from the coffee, making Kopi Luwak smooth and mild with a sweet aftertaste.

Originally Kopi Luwak was made from beans found in feces from civets living in the wild, making the collecting process quite time consuming, which explains why prices can get close to 1000$ for a kilo of Kopi Luwak. Now a lot of Kopi Luwak comes from civets in captivity, which raises some ethical issues and shouldn’t taste as good as Kopi Luwak from civets living in the wild as wild civets apparently are quite picky animals when it comes to coffee and only eat the best berries, which guarantees quality beans quality.

Kopi Luwak can be found all over Bali, both in shops and cafés. Whether the taste of Kopi Luwak is worth the price several times higher a normal cup of coffee is debatable, but it is inarguably a unique experience drinking a cup of coffee that has passed through a furry mammal.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Matt Verbaan says:

    Hi Vilondo,

    great article by David Sullivan and Rodney Glick from Seniman Coffee Studio in Ubud and we are definitely going to sip some coffee at their place next time we are in Ubud. Did you know that in Munduk they also grow the Arabica bean and you can even taste some Kopi Luwak here too. Check it out next time you are in the area.
    See ya at the Seniman Coffee Studio next time.

    Regards,
    Matt

  • Joshua Rogers says:

    Great article. Informative and it covered quite a broad range of coffee-related topics. Thanks.

    Regards,

    Josh

  • Elle says:

    I would seriously discourage people from buying Kopi Luwak. It is increasingly a battery farmed commodity, and numerous wildlife groups have criticized the inhumane treatment of the civets needed to make it.

  • Eni says:

    Hi Stevan,

    Nice article about coffee from the place where I born but has zero knowledge of it :(.

    I am interested to learn more, do you know where I can contact the person from Seniman Coffee Studio?

    Thanks a lot for your help.

    Cheers,

    Eni

    • Stefan Russel says:

      Hi Eni

      I am glad you liked the post.

      You can find Seniman’s contact info on their website – see the blue box with “Our favorite cafés in Bali” above.

      Cheers

      Stefan

  • henryk says:

    I went to Seniman’s based on raving reviews. Well sorry to be a contrarien but on that one visit I was disappointed. I tried their 3 – coffee experience thinking that it will be a good option to try what they are best at, making coffee.

    Presentatio was good but….. First was coffee with ice cubes. I was looking for flavor and did not find it. There was though cool watery fluid.

    Second was very strange clear slightly dark (empthasis on slight) water. My first impressio was that I was drinking water.

    Third was last as it seems the “barista” needed more time to make. This one was somewhat above the second in flavor but still gave an impression of being miles away from a coffee drink.

    I also bought a chocolate croissant which came looking tired and rubbery in consitency.

  • henryk says:

    I thought about my 1st experience as I walked passed the Cafe and decided to give them one more chance. It didn’t seem fair to me to write them off on just one day. My reasoning being “Maybe the barista was sleeping that day.”
    So I went in and just ordered the plain as vanilla cappuccino. It came in a little glass cup and looked like something I recognized. Just the first sip told me that this was an excellent cup of coffee.
    They do make good coffee !!!!

    • Stefan Russel says:

      Hi Henryk

      I glad to hear that the barista was back in form on your second visit and you got yourself a nice cup of coffee.
      In my experience, they definitely know how to brew a solid cup of coffee.

      Cheers

      Stefan

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