Indonesia comprises 13,000 pacific islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited. It is the world's third largest producer of coffee. However, only 10% of the crop is arabica, and the number of quality beans available for the specialty coffee industry is limited. Even though thay are a small percentage of total production, arabica coffees from this region are considered to be some of the best in the world. They are prized for their richness, full body, long finish, earthiness and gentle acidity.

The Dutch first brought arabica to their colony in Java, in what was then known as the Netherland Indies, in the mid 18th century. Cultivation proved so succesful that "Java" became a synonym for all coffee.

Hawaii Java New Guinea
Sulawesi Sumatra Vietnam

Coffee was introduced into Hawaii over 170 years ago when, in 1825, Chief Boki, Governor of Oahu brought coffee to Hawaii aboard the British warship HMS Blonde. The ship was returning to Hawaii with the bodies of King Kamahameha II and Queen Kamamalu who had died in London during their trip there. Chief Boki had acquired the coffee plants in Rio de Janeiro during the return voyage.

Hawaii boasts a thriving coffee industry, that's mostly geared towards visitors and gourmets. Coffee is grown commercially on four of the six major islands: Maui, Hawaii, Molokai and Kauai. It grows wild on Oahu where it was first planted. It primarily grows, however, on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai, with the coffees of the Kona region of the island of Hawaii being the most highly prized. Kona possesses the perfect environment for growing arabicas. The best estates grown beautiful, large, flat beans, which produce a medium-bodied brew, with buttery, spicy characteristics. The brew is rich, somewhat acidic and intensely flavourful.

The Kona area of Hawaii, has 525 farms yielding 1,800 acres of coffee. Kona coffee, marketed as a gourmet item, produces an estimated $10 million a year for farmers. Consumers should be aware that many coffees being sold as Kona blends may contain only 10% Hawaiian coffee, typically blended with Latin American coffees. Kona coffees demand a premium price, and the flavour characteristics of many lower priced Latin American coffees are considered superior.

The best grade of coffee is extra fancy, followed by fancy and number one grades. There are many excellent small estates in the Kona district; generally the coffee they produce is both better and more interesting than the Kona coffees that are pooled and sold generically.

Early Dutch explorers brought arabica trees to Java, which became the world's leading producer of coffee until rust wiped out the industry in the 1870s. Farmers replanted, only to see their crops devastated again by military occupation during World War II. The acreage was again replanted but this time with disease-resistant, and less desirable robusta stock. With the support of the Indonesian government, arabica is once again being grown on some of the original Dutch estates. Estate Java is a wet-processed coffee that is more acidic, lighter in body and quicker to finish that other coffees in the region. Smoke and spice are flavours often associated with this coffee's acidity.

Some Javanese coffee is stored in warehouses for two or three years and is referred to as Old Java. This ageing process causes the coffee to lose acidity and gain body and sweetness.

New Guinea:
Earth's second largest island, New Guinea lies just north of Australia and is divided down it's centre between the country of Papua New Guinea on the east and Indonesia's Irian Jaya province to the west.

Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, is usually where coffee labelled New Guinea is grown. Cultivation started in 1937 with seeds imported from Jamaica's Blue Mountain region. Coffee is cultivated by peasants on small plantations in the mountain highlands around Mt. Hagen, and processed using the wet method. Two of New Guinea's most famous coffees are Sigri and Arona. These coffees are less acidic and aromatic than the best coffees of Sulawesi and less full-bodied than the best Sumatrans, but nonetheless they are well-balanced with a fruity aroma and earthy body.

Sulawesi (or Celebes):
Once known as Celebes, the island of Sulawesi in the Malay peninsula produces some of the world's finest coffee. Celebes Toraja, grown in the mountainous area near the centre of the island, is one of the most famous. Coffees from Sulawesi are processed using the dry method and possess an intriguing combination of sweetness and earthiness. They are low in acidity with a deep body resembling maple syrup. These coffees are more expensive than Sumatran coffees because of small yields and the fierce demand for this coffee in Japan.

Two of the world's best and most famous coffees come from Sumatra: Mandheling and Ankola. Both are dry-processed coffees grown in west-central Sumatra, near the port of Pandang, at altitudes of between 2,500 and 5,000 feet. Mandheling is known for it's herbal aroma, full body, low acidity and rich and smooth flavour. Though these coffees are difficult to find, they remain moderate in price.

French missionaries first brought coffee to Vietnam in the mid-1860s, but production remained negligible as late as 1980. In the 1990s, however, Vietnamese coffee production was ratcheted up at a furious pace. Maybe too quickly for it's own good with worries about quality circulating. Vietnam specialises in Robusta production.