Location: Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia


Eager to leave ‘Little Australia’ (Kuta & Legian) behind me, I hired a guide & driver and fled to the mountains in search of Bali’s infamous coffee growing plantations situated on the islands northeastern highlands.


Various roads lead to the highlands and Bali’s main tourist attraction – Mount Batur, an active volcano set in the vast volcanic plateau of Kintamani. Our journey passes through several picturesque artisan towns such as Celuk (known for its silver and gold jewellers) and Mas (village of master woodcarvers).


On the drive up the mountain, the road narrows and becomes congested with trucks, workers and people walking, cycling or waiting on the roadside. We pass dozens of orchards growing tangerines on the lower slopes and make our first stop at a ‘working tourist coffee plantation’.


Pulling up we are immediately set upon by hawkers peddling wooden Harley Davidson miniatures and tourist paraphernalia. A dirt track leads us to a traditional coffee roasting display, seated coffee tasting areas and a store selling packaged coffee & chocolate. We take our seats and are served a brown watery mixture our host refers to as Kopi Bali - a Robusta/Arabica mix of poor quality & origin. Disappointed we leave, as several busloads of tourists arrive.


Our next destination is a Japanese owned coffee processing facility north of Kintamani village. After two hours of steady driving we are following a rural single lane road sandwiched between coffee plantations. The plants look healthy and plots maintained. The local variety coffee produced in this area is predominantly (Arabica) Bourbon and Typica (Linie S) varieties and the coffee is ‘wet processed’.


Processing begins when freshly hand-picked coffee cherries are sorted and separated, removing the green, yellow and damaged cherries. The remaining red cherries are floated to separate under-ripes and debris. The cherry is then depulped to remove the outer skin and left to ferment in water for between 12-36 hours. Fermentation is a critical step that has an important impact on the taste and aids in the removal of the fruit surrounding the bean. After fermentation, the mucilage is washed off and thoroughly cleaned along a series of washing channels. Finally the beans are sun dried on concrete pads, until the moisture level reaches approximately 11-13%.


Unable to purchase ‘green beans’ directly from the processers, we were told a nearby cafe in Kintamani village had roasted beans for sale. We expected a rustic Balinese styled cafe but arrived at a monumental ‘Chairman Mao’ inspired Chinese restaurant. With an espresso bar & display area off to one side, we ordered a round of ‘Kopi Arabika Bali Kintamani’ single origin based drinks and enjoyed a palatable, aromatic cup. We purchased 'take home' packs and began our return journey to Kuta.


It was disappointing to discover, the ‘Bali Kintamani’ single origin we purchased was not the same coffee as we had sampled and neither was it 100% ‘Kopi Arabika Bali Kintamani’ as marketed. The beans were in fact an Arabica/Robusta mix of various Indonesian origins.


The following day, we took an alternative route to the highlands west of Kintamani and visited a ‘village roaster’ that produced a respectable ‘locals’ Arabusta coffee - drum roasted over an open pit fire in the backyard. The full story in Bali Kintamani (Part 2)… coming soon


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