Hand Picked Highland Coffee in Sulawesi

April 30, 2014 by | Filed Under: Authentic Experiences, Indonesia, News

Sulawesi is home to small highland plantations hand cultivated by people with ancient cultural practices…

Indonesia is known for being an incredibly diverse archipelago, and the Island of Sulawesi is a prime example of the uniqueness of each island. The district of Tanatoraja in South Sulawesi is a highland province where the people’s culture has withstood the outside influences of Islam and Dutch colonialism. Well known for their traditional houses called tongkonan, animist religious beliefs, as well as their elaborate funeral rituals, the Toraja people are also widely respected for exquisite Arabica coffee cultivation.

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The Toraja live in the mountainous area near the center of the island and the coffee is grown 1400-1900 meters above sea level. They use traditional methods for its cultivation, and most production is from smaller privately owned plantations. Given the mountainous terrain, picking and sorting of the coffee cherries is done by hand, allowing only the finest coffee cherries to be selected.

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This highland coffee has a high-iron content that is thought to affect the flavors. Troraja’s coffee is described as having a high body, nutty or warm spice notes, and a cinnamon-like sweetness. The sweetness and body of the coffee allow for a very mellow, soft and smooth aftertaste. The challenging landscape makes for limited production. The demand for this quality product is high.

The isolated villages of the Toraja are recognized for their distinct cultural practices. Their traditional houses, or tongkonan, are distinctly boat shaped with a saddleback roof and are generally built on a north-south axis. In addition to their unique living structures dotting the emerald green mountainsides, their funerals are also quite interesting. This ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event in Toraja society. A service for a nobleman may be attended by thousands of people and last several days and consist of many animals being sacrificed. The deceased are then either laid in a cave, a carved stone grave, or hung on a cliff.

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