New Coffee Release: Flores Kartika (Anaerobic)
Altitude – 1700 masl
Variety – Kartika
Process – Anaerobic Natural
Flores is not often thought of when discussing Indonesian coffees. Sumatra, Java, and Papua New Guinea often headline an incredibly diverse growing region. However, the island of Flores has just as much to offer as its fellow Indonesian counterparts.
A tropical and volcanic island between the Banda Sea and the Flores Sea, part of the Indonesian Archipelago, it is home to rare and extraordinary flora and fauna and is one of the most beautiful islands on earth. Home to creatures like the Komodo dragon, long-tailed macaques, and zebra finches, Flores is a true tropical paradise, surrounded by some of the world’s best coral reefs.
Tuang Coffee has helped to ensure that coffee from Flores makes its mark by focusing on ethical sourcing and specialty production. Our latest offering, a Natural Anaerobic Kartika, is an example of the fruits of their labor.
An absolute fruit bomb: this coffee is loaded with flavors of strawberry candy, guava jam and lychee. A juicy bubble gum sweetness is balanced by pleasant boozy notes of natural wine and spiced rum, rounding off with a milk chocolate finish.
The anaerobic process is risky and time-consuming. After coffee cherries are picked and sorted, they are placed in sealed fermenting tanks for up to 10 days and are then placed to dry on raised beds, which could take over a month. The risk of a spoiled production looms large and requires incredible diligence and patience.
Unlike other coffee-producing regions, producers in Flores tend to keep some of their harvest in-country. Tuang Coffee not only sells to high-end roasters in Indonesia but also roasts themselves, supplying their own café and providing ready-to-drink products to supermarkets and online.
About Indonesian Coffee
Indonesia holds a unique place in coffee history. After Dutch smugglers took coffee seeds out of the port of Mocha in Yemen around the late 1600s, they found a home for coffee cultivation on the Indonesian island of Java, exporting their first green coffee to Europe in 1704. This was the first time coffee had been grown commercially outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
A few coffee plants from Java made their way to Europe with the Dutch. One of these plants would be given to King Louis XIV of France as a gift in 1714, who then decided to store it in the Royal Botanical Garden. This plant, through a harrowing tale, would go on to become the ancestor of what made coffee global.
Nine years after the arrival of the plant from Indonesia arrived in France, a sailor named Mathieu Gabriel de Clieu thought that coffee cultivation would thrive at his station in Martinique in the Caribbean. He asked permission from the King to take some of the plant to cultivate but was denied. It was then that he stole a shoot of the plant and smuggled it aboard a ship back to Martinique.
The trip was not an easy one. They were bombarded by storms and attacked by Tunisian pirates; the crew nearly ran out of water, and Gabriel de Clieu shared his own supply with the coffee plant to ensure its survival. Despite the rigors of the journey, coffee found its way to the Caribbean and thrived. Ancestors of this coffee would later take root in Brazil, the world’s leader in coffee production.
Coffee began expanding across Indonesia’s 17,000 islands as well, finding success on only a handful. The Dutch found most of their success producing coffee on the islands of Sumatra, Bali, Timor, and Sulawesi, producing high-volume cash crops to send back to Europe.
Much like their African counterparts, Indonesian coffee producers fought a hard battle against coffee leaf rust, a fungal blight that kills trees, beginning in the 1800s, obliterating much of Indonesia’s coffee production. To combat this, farmers replaced their Arabica trees with the hardier, yet-lower-quality Robusta. Today, only 20% of Indonesia’s coffee production is Arabica. Producers in Indonesia, particularly on the island of Flores, are making strides to showcase the quality that can be produced across this incredibly diverse nation.
Flores is Indonesia’s most under-appreciated coffee-producing region. The third island east of Bali, Flores’ western tip is home to the bustling tourist hub of Labuan Bajo — the jumping-off point for world-class diving and to see Komodo dragons. What was a sleepy backpacker town ten years ago, with the main drag dominated by dive shops and fishing boats puttering around an otherwise quiet harbor the only noise pollution, Labuan Bajo has seen dramatic development over the past ten years, with five-star luxury hotels cluttering the surrounding beaches, tall harbor-front hotels, and the last Starbucks in the southern hemisphere until you get to New Zealand.
Drive east from Labuan Bajo and reminders of foreign tourists and modern development disappear quickly, giving way to a series of indigenous groups whose homelands are found across the island. The first group you find is also the island’s largest, the Manggarai people, who grow coffee in the highlands around and to the east of Ruteng, the area’s largest city and main trading hub.
Ruteng is home to Tuang Coffee, a forerunner of specialty coffee production and ethical sourcing on Flores. Tuang was founded by Andre Hamboer, who grew up there surrounded by his father’s extended family and in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta. Deciding that the life of a corporate lawyer in Singapore wasn’t for him, Andre established Tuang in 2014 with a vision to elevate Manggarai coffee in ways that deliver higher incomes for coffee farmers.
Tuang’s coffee comes from more than 1000 smallholder farms at elevations of 1400-1700m in thirteen villages in the districts of Manggarai and East Manggarai. They’ve worked closely with their village-based collectors to develop a steady supply of meticulously picked and sorted red coffee cherry, which they then process in Ruteng. They work with their collectors to set the price to be received by farmers and then pay the collectors a separate fee — a departure from the standard practice of paying collectors a set rate and lacking knowledge of the price farmers receive.
The dominant variety in the region is Kartika, a portmanteau of Kopi Arabika Tipe Katai, which is a localized version of Catuai. Other varieties are present in smaller volumes throughout the area, including Yellow Bourbon and Juria, an old typica variety that was planted in an earlier era of coffee production in Flores, with a few hearty trees remaining.
Tuang’s anaerobic natural coffee starts with selective picking of ripe red cherry by smallholder farmers, which they then deliver to a collection point where additional sorting is performed. The collector then brings the cherry to Tuang’s mill in Ruteng, where ripeness is checked and then loaded into water tanks that have been repurposed for fermentation. The tank is sealed, and the coffee is left to ferment for up to 10 days.
As the fruit breaks down a liquid is produced which is pulled from the tank and pH is tested. When the liquid reaches a pH of 3.8 the coffee is removed from the tanks and spread on raised beds for drying down to 12 percent moisture content which takes between 25-45 days depending on the weather. The coffee is then moved to the warehouse for storage.
Specific lots are maintained separately by village and the date it was received throughout the process to maintain the highest levels of quality control and traceability.
The flavors in this coffee are extraordinary and range widely. It is a wild coffee, full of surprises and complexities. On the nose we find pleasantly boozy natural wine and spiced rum fragrances which lay the foundation for an incredibly colorful cup of coffee. The flavors then open to layers reminiscent of tropical fruit punch supported by sugar cane sweetness making this coffee a truly unique experience, one that we cannot stop coming back to.
Coffees like the Tuang Kartika are showing that Flores is making its mark on the specialty coffee landscape. Risk and innovation are paying dividends for the producers willing to dive into the world of specialty, proving that Flores is more than volcanoes and Komodo dragons.