There are 2 main varieties of Sulawesi coffee; Toraja and Kalossi. Both are heady, exotic coffees with a strong body and low acidity. Their flavors have that signature earthy, fruity yet clean taste that Indonesia is known for, mingled with hints of spice and a warm nuttiness.
Top Recommended Sulawesi Coffee
- Country of Origin – Indonesia, South-East Asia
- Regions – Kalossi and Toraja, Central Sulawesi Island
- Best Known Growers – small, family-run farms
- Altitude – 1,000 to 1,500 meters
- Harvest – May to September
- Milling Process – washed and sun-dried
- Aroma – heady, earthy, chocolatey
- Flavor – fruity, earthy, spiced, natural sweetness, nutty
- Body – heavy and full
- Acidity – low
- Certification – Organic, but hard to come by
About the Bean
The cleaner, brighter flavor that you find in Sulawesi coffee comes from the milling process, which is simply washed and sun-dried. The similar tasting Sumatra Mandheling and other Indonesian beans go through a wet-hulling process that enhances the earthy, almost herby, flavor. Without that process, the subtle notes of nuttiness, sweetness, and mix of spices (from cinnamon to black pepper) are given a better chance to shine through.
Toraja vs Kalossi
Toraja is the main growing region in central Sulawesi, full of highlands and volcanic soils. Kalossi is just one small village– a village where coffee is an important part of their culture and economy. Toraja coffee is just as delightful as Kalossi, but there’s more uncertainty about where exactly in Toraja (and at what altitude) your coffee beans are sourced from.
Coffee was introduced to Sulawesi centuries ago when the island was still known as Celebes – it’s surge in popularity and entrance into the global coffee marketplace started in the late 1970s, and we’re not quite there yet. There’s very little certification available for Sulawesi coffees, making it hard to determine whether it’s an ethical bean to serve. You won’t find Sulawesi coffee as a regular bean in Starbucks, you’ll need to order it especially if you want to try. The Coffee Dorks recommend you try it at least once, even if you weren’t particularly fond of the earthy flavors of Sumatran coffee – the subtle differences make Sulawesi far more palatable.
Sulawesi beans are naturally light in appearance, so if you order a dark roasted Sulawesi (recommended, as the heavy roasting really caramelizes the sweet, nuttiness) and open the bag to find relatively light looking beans, don’t worry. On the other hand, if your coffee beans are looking very dark in appearance, they’ve either been over-roasted or you’re not getting genuine Sulawesi coffee.
About the Region
Central Sulawesi is a mountainous area with much the same climate as Sumatra and Borneo, but with rich, volcanic soil and a much more relaxed approach when it comes to growing coffee.
The vast majority of small farmers growing the coffee in Sulawesi plant haphazardly, wherever a coffee plant will fit – leading to areas with high production and low production per acre. Most coffee that makes it across the world is from farms around Kalossi and the Toraja highlands, as the more southern regions at lower altitudes produce a lower quality bean.
Temperatures in the highlands drop considerably to the mid/low 20°Cs, creating mist and a damp jungle environment as hot, moist air (usually around 30°C) from the coast cools down as it heads inland.
Overall, this region is less well-known and relatively new to the coffee growing scene. There’s no real organizing body to unite the farmers and organic certifications are hard to come by – yet this is an intriguing bean with a subtle flavor difference and smoother body to the other Indonesian coffees. It’s certainly worth a try if you enjoy that earthy, clean taste in your morning cup!
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.