Coffee first entered Indonesia in 1696; the Arabica coffee. The Dutch Commander Adriaan van Ommen brought the coffee from Malabar - India - to Jakarta (then Batavia). The coffee was planted in what is now known as Pondok Kopi in east Jakarta, using the private land called Kedaung. Unfortunately, these plants then all died because of a flood.

Leaf rust is a disease that attacks coffee plants

In 1699 more new seeds were brought into the country. Later on coffee was spread around Jakarta and in West Java; the lands then called Priangan. Eventually coffee was spread to the Indonesia islands Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi and Timor.

Indonesia was a giant coffee exporter 1725 - 1780

The Dutch East Indian Company (VOC = Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) exported the Indonesian coffees first in 1711. The export increased to 60 tonnes a year. The coffee plantations in Indonesia became the first outside Arabia and Ethiopia. As a result the VOC managed to monopolize the coffee trade from 1725 to 1780. The Indonesian coffees were very famous in Europe, and called the black drinks a "cup of Java". Until the mid-19th century, Javanese coffee belonged among the best coffees in the world.

Leaf rust disease threatens Arabica coffee

For about 175 years Arabica coffee was the only commercial type of coffee grown in Indonesia. But then, at the end of the nineteenth century, the development of Arabica coffee cultivation suffered severe setbacks due to leaf rust disease (Hemileia Vastatrix). As leaf rust doesn't like heights Arabica coffee can survive at an altitude of 1000 m asl or more. Nowadays Arabica coffee can still be found in the Javanese highlands such as at the Ijen Plateau in the district Banyuwangi (East Java), Tanah Toraja in South Sulawesi, the upper slopes of Bukit Barisan in Sumatra, in Mandhailing, Lintong and Sidikalang in North Sumatra and in the central highlands in Nanggroe in the province Aceh Darussalam.
The Dutch government then introduced the Liberia coffee in 1875. This type was not favored as the taste is too acidic.

Robusta as another option

After the intrduction of Liberia coffee without success, the Dutch Government tried to grow Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) in 1900. This breed of coffee turned out to be resistant to leaf rust disease. Besides, maintenance is mild, while the production was much higher. Robusta coffee then rapidly expanded and replaced the Arabica beans in particular in the areas where coffee was grown at an altitude below 1000 m. Coffee Robusta spread throughout Indonesia; Java, Sumatra and islands east of Java.

 

Literature

G. Teggia and M. Hanusz (2003). A cup of Java. Equinox Publishing Asia, Pte. Ltd, First Equinox Edition.
Mudrig Yahmadi (2007). Rangkaian perkembangan dan permasalahan budidaya & pengolahan kopi di Indonesia. AEKI Jawa Timur, PT. Bina Ilmu Offset.