Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Indonesia

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Welcome expatriates to the vibrant and captivating world of coffee culture in Indonesia! As an expat living in this beautiful archipelago, you have the unique opportunity to embrace the flavors, sights, and experiences of coffee production and consumption, and to learn from the locals who have been brewing and savoring coffee for centuries. Whether you are an avid coffee lover or a novice simply looking to discover new tastes and customs, this guide is for you.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Indonesia's rich history of coffee production dates back to the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company (VOC) introduced coffee beans to the archipelago. Today, coffee is grown in several regions across the country, including Sumatra, Java, and Bali. However, the most popular coffee bean variety indigenous to Indonesia is the Arabica coffee plant. Locally grown Arabica coffee boasts a unique taste profile characterized by sweetness, fruity acidity, and a rich and velvety texture.

One of the best ways to explore Indonesia's coffee plantations is by visiting local farms and plantations. Many of these estates offer tours and workshops that provide insights into the coffee-making process. Some popular coffee plantations in Indonesia that are expat-friendly include the Labuan Aji plantation in North Sumatra, the Barokbawang coffee estate in Bogor, West Java, and the Hill Station Agro Tourism in Pangalengan, West Java. These places offer guided tours, coffee tastings, and demonstrations that teach visitors about the different stages of coffee cultivation and production, from planting and harvesting to drying and roasting.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Coffee traditions in Indonesia are rich and diverse, with a wide range of coffee styles and blends that reflect the country's unique cultural influences. Here are some of the most popular coffee style drinks that you may encounter as an expat living in Indonesia:

  • Kopi Luwak: Known as 'civet coffee', this drink is made from coffee cherries that have been consumed and excreted by a civet cat, resulting in a unique and dense brew. While its origins are shrouded in mystery, Kopi Luwak is considered a delicacy in Indonesia and attracts quite a following among coffee connoisseurs.
  • Kopi Susu: Literally meaning 'coffee milk', this drink combines rich coffee with condensed milk, resulting in a smooth and creamy beverage that is a popular choice among Indonesians.
  • Kopi O Suization: This style involves brewing coffee with water that has been boiled and then filtered, resulting in a strong and concentrated flavor. Kopi O is often consumed as a prelude to dinner or as a pick-me-up during the afternoon slump.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

In Indonesia, coffee drinking is more than just a beverage; it is a deeply entrenched custom and a social catalyst. Coffee shops and cafes often double as community hubs, providing space for locals to gather, chat, and enjoy a cup of coffee. Here are some insights about coffee drinking customs that you may encounter as an expat living in Indonesia:

  • Communal Coffee: In Indonesia, drinking coffee is often a communal affair. Coffee is brewed in large pots and served in small cups, allowing everyone to enjoy the full flavor of the brew.
  • Coffee Etiquette: When enjoying coffee in social settings, it is customary to offer a few sips to your companions before drinking the rest yourself. This is a sign of respect and hospitality, and is a common practice among Indonesian coffee lovers.
  • Cafe Culture: Indonesian coffee shops and cafes are often led by a barista who is responsible for brewing and serving coffee. Customers are encouraged to take their time and savor the taste of the coffee, rather than gulping it down quickly.


Indonesia's coffee culture is a vibrant and fascinating aspect of its rich cultural heritage. Whether you are an avid coffee lover or a novice looking to explore new flavors and customs, there is something for everyone in this fascinating world of coffee. By immersing yourself in the local community, visiting coffee plantations, and drinking coffee with locals, you can gain a deeper understanding of Indonesia's unique coffee traditions.

Recommended Expant-Friendly Coffee Shops and Cafes

Here are some expat-friendly coffee shops and cafes that are worth checking out in Indonesia:

  • Kopi ToGo, Jakarta: A popular chain of coffee shops that offers a wide range of Indonesian-style coffee blends, as well as Western-style drinks.
  • Rexx Cafe, Makassar: A trendy cafe that offers a unique blend of Indonesian and Western coffee styles, as well as a variety of pastry and sandwich options.
  • Kopi Krystali, Bali: Located in the heart of Ubud, this specialty coffee shop offers a range of coffee blends sourced from local plantations, as well as delicious pastries and sandwiches.

Final Thoughts

As an expat living in Indonesia, there are countless opportunities to fully immerse yourself in the country's rich coffee culture. From visiting local plantations to savoring unique coffee styles and customs, this guide has provided an overview of the key aspects of coffee culture that you should consider exploring. Remember to always respect local customs and traditions, and to approach the coffee drinking experience with an open and curious mind.