Kawah Ijen: A Stroll Through Another Planet

Kawah Ijen: A Stroll Through Another Planet

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Mars, the fortress of solitude, the surface of the moon, Mu; the hidden lands of the center of the earth. All these tales could have origins centuries ago as our ancestors first hiked Kawah Ijen – the largest sulfuric lake in the world.

It is, simply put, one of the greatest hikes on earth. I first hiked Ijen in 2013 in the middle of a rainy day. On the back of a Gojek! (basically Uber for Mopeds), my moto driver stopped by a Kopi farm on the way up from Bonyuwani. There I sipped incredible freshly roasted Javanese coffee, grown, processed and roasted organically and biodynamically on the sloping hillsides of the Ijen Mountain range. 

That cup of coffee half a decade ago still sits with me. Had I known how special that first hike to Ijen was going to be, perhaps I would have paid more attention to the tasting notes but that day this Kopi was fuel for a steep and challenging hike. 

Almost every traveler hikes Ijen at night, so once in the crater they can see the famous Blue Flames, a visual annominally that is created by the inner workings of the sulfur mine. As it churns from within, the smoke dances out of the crater in a string of purple and blue flames, drawing people from around the world to witness the flames from 3am to 4:30, when the sun begins to rise and everyone is witness to the stunning beauty of what surrounds them.    

    

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Heroes' Day in Surabaya. Rawon in Probolinggo.

Heroes' Day in Surabaya. Rawon in Probolinggo.

SURABAYA. November 10th.

Waking early in the morning, we are greeted outside the hotel by Supri, our guide of all things East Java when we are in the tour van. Supri will provide a thousand laughs and insights over the coming days, his smiles endless, even when teaching us about the grim eras of his nation's history. Its November 10th, Veteran's day in America and something similar is happening in Surabaya, the largest city in Jawa Timur. As we roll down the driveway, snare drum hits begin to fill the air, the van stops and we jump out to get a look. Soon hundreds of people approach our way, many wearing camouflage, waving flags, marching down the busy main avenue. 

Its Heroes’ Day in Surabaya, a day celebrating the turning point in the Indonesia National RevolutionThe events toward independence between Indonesia's declaration of independence in 1945 and the Dutch recognition of Indonesia's independence at the end of 1949.

For further reading on the history of Indonesian Independence, I've included Hyperlinks to articles within the Bold letters.  

 Rayden Adding Kartini, a profound thinker in pre- independent Indonesia, whose work helped form the National Awakening Movement. "Kartini incorporated feminist principles, community welfare and education in her pursuit of the national Indonesian identity and her quest to modernise her traditional society, advocating changes in gender status and principles of individual and national self-determination to realise the Indonesian universal dream of independence and self governance." She worked tirelessly for the emancipation of Indonesian women and built schools for indigenous girls. Her birthday is now recognized as a national holiday.       

Rayden Adding Kartini, a profound thinker in pre- independent Indonesia, whose work helped form the National Awakening Movement. "Kartini incorporated feminist principles, community welfare and education in her pursuit of the national Indonesian identity and her quest to modernise her traditional society, advocating changes in gender status and principles of individual and national self-determination to realise the Indonesian universal dream of independence and self governance." She worked tirelessly for the emancipation of Indonesian women and built schools for indigenous girls. Her birthday is now recognized as a national holiday.       

The path to undo the horrors of colonialism in Indonesia began officially in May 1908, which is commemorated as the National Awakening. This was an anti apartheid movement by indigenous Indonesians to develop a national consciousness that would intellectually unite the many peoples of the archipelago.

"Several factors gave rise to a nationalist consciousness: the indigenous print media, urbanisation, communism, Islam, education, mass entertainment (such as film, stambul theatre, and kroncong music), and suffering under Dutch apartheid. Leading intellectuals such as KartiniTirto, and Semaun gave voice and sentiment to the idea of a unified archipelago. These leaders, along with many others, sought to embrace "modernity" and nation, "freedom" (merdeka) and independence." (Wikipedia)

The Dutch did their best to suppress the Independence movement. They arrested Sukarno in 1929, then banned the Indonesian National Party and several other nationalist organizations. "Although nationalist sentiment remained high in the 1930s, real moves towards independence remained stifled. With the dramatic changes of the Second World War, however, political power was recast forever."

The years surrounding World War II were a chaotic sea change for Indonesia. In the Netherlands, the Dutch found themselves occupied by Nazi Germany and could barely put up a fight as their centuries old colonial empire in Indonesia (still called The Dutch East Indies) was toppled by Axis Japan in only 3 months. Japanese occupation was welcomed by some as a better option then European colonialism, but the reality was a brutal era of oppression. After the war, the Japanese negotiate Java back to the Dutch, which is reoccupied with help from Allied Britain, only to be toppled indefinitely, this time by the People’s Revolution of Indonesia. 

Timeline of Indonesian Independence.

 General Mallaby was killed in his car. Nov. 10th, 1945.

General Mallaby was killed in his car. Nov. 10th, 1945.

What is being celebrated in the streets this morning is what is historically considered the turning point in the struggle for Indonesian Independence: "The Battle of Surabaya". This bloody battle took place in 1945 and began with the death of the British commander, Brigadier A. W. S. Mallaby on November 10th. The fight galvanized the independence movement and convinced the Dutch and British governments that a majority of the nation’s people supported the uprising, not a small group of rebels as they had hoped. The British soon claimed neutrality and within 5 years supported the Indonesian Republican cause at the UN. Estimates of actual casualties have never been determined but it is thought to be between 45,000 and 100,000 Indonesians were killed between 1945 and 1949.  

 Shop front in Probolingo

PROBOLINGGO

Our first stop is in Probolinggo, a East Java town famous for raising world class Koi fish. We stop for an early lunch and I order a Es Kopi Susu (iced coffee with milk). This version was made with Ghee and Gula Jawa (dark coconut sugar)- making for a something resembling maple butter coffee. It tasted fantastic but the coagulation of the creamy Ghee top makes for an awkward drinking experience. I wonder if  there is a way to condense the Ghee into a sauce much like we do with our Sweetened Condensed Coconut milk at Kopi Coffee House. So first on our list of experimentation when we get home is a sweetened condensed Ghee. (update: experiments one and two were a total failure, the sugar separates and caramelizes at the bottom in a solid mass)   

Also here was our first experience with an authentic bowl Rawon: a beef stew that is served black because the main herbal ingredient is Kluwak, a large seed that is toxic when raw. To make it servable and delicious, the seed is cooked in coconut ash, detoxified, soaked and dried - then ground as a marinade element for the beef. The broth was deep and complex, the “Joss” (charcoal) process actually gives the meat some crisp profile notes on the front of the tongue, letting the flavor develop slowly on the back of the pallet. Highly recommended. 

 Rawon, a delicious and spicy Indonesian black beef soup.

Rawon, a delicious and spicy Indonesian black beef soup.

 Es Kopi Susu (Iced Milk Coffee with Ghee butter)

Es Kopi Susu (Iced Milk Coffee with Ghee butter)

The use of charcoal in Javanese cuisine is fascinating. 8 years ago, in Yogyakarta, I experienced "Kopi Joss" on a dare. A Kopi Joss is when burning coconut charcoal ember is dipped into heavily sugared Iced coffee. It was to be the first of many Indonesian coffee drinks that would open my mind to the world of South East Asian coffee. At the shop, we serve a take on that Kopi Joss in the form of our Black Maple Latte, a Cortado whisked with activated coconut charcoal and Vermont maple syrup. 

From our website: In central Java is a coffee experience one is soon not to forget. Several years ago, a local psychonaut and health guru going by the name "Mr. Pac-Man" begun dipping burning coconut charcoal into Iced Coffees and selling them on the streets of Yogykarta. Known as "Kopi Joss" many locals and travelers seek out Mr. Pac Man's brew for its detoxifying effects. We use high grade Activated Coconut Charcoal, widely regarded as a powerful antioxidant, cavity fighter and hangover elixir.

INDOKOM

INDOKOM

Java

A couple months ago, a representative from the Indonesian Consulate General in San Francisco contacted us asking if we would like to take part in their new “Familiarization of East Java coffee program.” The goal of which is to promote East Java Culture and Coffee – in particular “specialty coffee” – what the Indonesian coffee industry designates as small farm, single origin coffee that exports with the intention of providing quality beans to high end coffee roasters like Kopi. 

Sorter

Java has historically been associated with mass produced utilitarian coffees like Folgers and Starbucks. Look a little closer and you'll find great potential for high end specialty coffee. Many of the coffee farms in Java have been in use for centuries and are historically biodynamic, making for a natural adaptation to the changing coffee markets in the west. During a trip to Bandung in February, I tasted some of the most interesting, flavor forward coffee I’ve ever had in my life and it was very exciting to have the opportunity to meet some of the farmers who grow that same coffee. At Kopi, we’ve been able to roast several great coffees from Java but we’ve seen many more imports come from Sumatra, Flores and Bali. Java being the most populous island in the archipelago of Indonesia, big business usually comes first. SCAI (Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia) has been working hard to help small farms grow great coffee and get the word out about Java's developing specialty coffee culture.   

Indokom Citra Persada Facility, Surabaya

Daroe

Fast Forward to the last day of our trip. We are saying goodbye to most of our group as their flight to Jakarta leaves soon.  The whole group is smiling through the day in a dreamy haze, having rose at 3am to experience sunrise over Bromo then driving back to Surabaya through monsoon rains. Amongst them, our SCAI representative and charming host, Daroe. He is gracious, intelligent and warm in a way unique to Indonesia. His limitless energy kept us smiling this week. Daroe is a gem. I mean, look at this face:

 

 A collection of Bags Exported from Indokom, The red one in the center is our   
  
   
  
    
  
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   Bali Blue .

A collection of Bags Exported from Indokom, The red one in the center is our Bali Blue.

We’ve roasted coffee from Indokom since the beginning, our most popular bean, a natural processed coffee from the Kintamani highlands on the island of Bali, comes through Indokom. 

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Upon entrance to the facility- we are greeted with a procession of women workers down a long green carpet that vanishes into a table of candy, tempe, shrimp and rice. Beyond that is the cupping room which is set up with two dozen or so coffees that are shipping out later this month.

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Angklung music plays over the PA as Mr. Hangirro, our government attaché gifts a plaque from the Indonesian Genereal Consualte in San Francisco. Then its our turn to gift a map of Oregon to Mr. Ibnu Ramadhan, one of the heads of the Surabaya facility of Indokom. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to photo-ops so I'm happy when all the workers in the facility line up for pictures with Nacko as we give and receive gifts. Our gifts from Portland include maps, postcards, Moonstruck Chocolate and Kopi T-shirts.

 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    Trevin  (Mr. Green Beans PDX) , Myself, Hangirro from the SF Consulate General and Supri our guide and teller of local legends....

Trevin (Mr. Green Beans PDX), Myself, Hangirro from the SF Consulate General and Supri our guide and teller of local legends....

 

Before our facility tour, we casually cup the coffee in no strict order, a cupping where focus is on conversation and company as much as it is about the beans. There’s no coffee snobbery here, sharing thoughts and stories takes center stage as slurping echoes in the background. A taller table of Arabica from Java, Flores, Bali, Sulawesi and Sumatra over shadows a small table of Robusta. There's even coffee from as far east as Indonesian New Guinea, a place we had no idea even grew coffee. Of the world’s 800 or so languages, 300 are from the New Guinea island, the western part of which was annexed by Indonesia in 1962.

Cleaning the Cupping

 

Kopi Pengolahan (coffee processing) 

Blue beans

The processing facility at the Jawa Timur Indokom facility contains several different sorting machines. One larger sifter that works the beans through several trays, sorting on density, a beautiful Optical Color Sorter (see video below) unit that filters the beans vertically and a room for the specialty products where the beans are sorted by hand. Next to the hand sorting station is a huge temperature controlled greenhouse where several of the “blue” variety beans are drying on large beds. Immediately upon walking into the greenhouse I’m covered in a tuxedo of sweat, my glasses fog immediately, a constant issue when traveling Indonesia. I'm not sure how anybody wears spectacles on a daily basis here. 

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Even at Indokom, a large coffee facility, we are greeted with huge smiles from everyone we meet. Every person is gracious and full of energy. Everyone wants to share, whether that be a cup of coffee or a delicate hand shake, the warmth that emanates from Javanese people is constantly refreshing and welcoming. The closest thing I can compare it to is a Grandmother's love, tranquil and unconditional, they are happy when you are happy with them. When in Indonesia, I find that I always know happiness. -X

On the next posts, I'll go back to day one as we travel from Surabaya to Bondowoso, up to Blawan and Kawah Ijen, the greatest hike in the world.   

Welcome Dinner

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Welcome Dinner

SURABAYA 

Surabaya, the largest city of Java Timur (East Java). 26 hours of travel and we are in Indonesia! As we leave the terminal, the equatorial humidity washes over us and our jet lagged exhaustion dissipates into excitement.  

We wind our way through an hour of traffic and to the hotel lobby where we meet Nurisiani, our contact from the consulate. Within 15 minutes of arrival we are whisked away across the street to an old Dutch built restaurant with a beautifully decorated dining room.

First served is a glass of fresh young coconut juice as our host from the San Francisco Consulate, Hangirro, introduces himself and lays out the goals of our tour. We are here to learn about Jawa Timur through the lens of the coffee. We will be visiting coffee farms, processing facilities, traditional restaurants and coffee shops (Kedai Kopis), meeting government officials, spend time at the Indonesian Coffee & Cocoa Research Institute and experience two of Indonesia's most incredible natural wonders (Gunung Bromo and Kawah Ijen). And we will be doing all of this in 4 days.

The meal is served family style in small plates so everyone can share, the delicious highlights include; Satay Ayam and Satay Kambing (grilled chicken and goat skewers) Ikan Goreng (whole fried fish) and Bakwan Jagung (Sweet Corn Fritters). The food flows fresh and bountiful as we go around the table for introductions: (our group detailed from left to right below)  

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  • Daroe Handojo One of our guides, a lovely man and Representative from SCAI (Specialty Coffee Association Indonesia).
  • Me (Xua) Kopi Roaster and owner Kopi Coffee House in Portland.
  • Nurisiani Syarief wonderful organizer and representative of the Indonesian General Consulate in San Francisco.
  • Rori Garini coffee enthusiast who just retired and wants to spend her retirement opening high end coffee shops in Indonesia. 
  • Gunawan Kosasih photographer, barista and coffee enthusiast.
  • Robert owner of Qimbiz Coffee, an Indonesia Specialty Coffee exporter.
  • Darmo Santoso owner of My Kopi-O! Indonesian Coffee Shop Chain with over a dozen stores.
  • Jefri Ang Coffee Enthusiast and Photographer,
  • Bunnie Usman Promotional/ Travel agent for Indonesia based in Sonora, California. 
  • Canadianty Suny (not pictured) Owner of a San Diego based Indonesian Food Caterer.

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong

A six-hour layover in Hong Kong is not much but it does leave room for some novel experiences. On the 2nd floor of Hong Kong station we sit and eat fantastic Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, which has the distinction of being the least expensive Michelin star-winning restaurant in the world. The original is in Mongkok, but in less than 10 years, they’ve expanded to 45 restaurants, including one in New York. It is a great pleasure of Hong Kong that this food is so easily accessible and even if your layover is 3 hours, you’d probably still have time to go through customs, ride the train, fill up on world class Dim Sum and get back to the airport for your flight out. The Shrimp Shu Mai is stellar. To me, good shrimp Shu Mai fights back a little when you bite down. When its truly lovely, this pop is the entry into a flood of tightly packed taste. Highly recommended.  

Having about an hour left to walk around downtown Hong Kong, we head to the back alleys around Wyndham and Hollywood Road a few blocks from the station. We are here to find a Dai Pai Dong (food stall) for a cup of Yuenyeung - Hong Kong Coffee.

The history of Yuenyeung is disputed in Hong Kong as it has only been around the area since the 1930’s. But in Malaysia, a Tarik (stretched) version of the drink called “Kopi Cham” is thought to be Dutch in origin and can be made with white tea or chamomile then pulled with sweetened condensed milk. I prefer the earthier HK version because it’s often made with full fat cream and Pu’er– the magical aged tea that can fetch astronomical prices depending on quality, process and region.  A strong dose of Pu’er simulates Adderall and is prescribed by herbal doctors for focus - a perfect medicine for cleaning your entire house in one night. I’ve experimented with several versions of this recipe at Kopi and I think after this cup I have some ideas on how to approach the difficult balancing act.

Good Yuenyeung is well balanced with ratios generally at ¼ Coffee, ¼ Cream and ½ tea- but it always depends on the strength of the tea and coffee.

We also stopped by a really cute little third wave shop called Noc who served us a nice espresso blend that included a really floral Natural Process from Brazil. I’m pleased to see that the trend of incorporating Natural processed coffees in espresso is becoming common place in high end shops in Asia - it ups the difficulty level when dialing in a shot- but the complexities can take your pallet on a unique ride and alter expectations of what a shot of espresso “should” taste like.

Even with a short layover in Hong Kong, we can learn new techniques that change our perception and open our senses to different ways of experiencing coffee. This is why we do what we do at Kopi and this is why we are travelling to Jawa Timur. - X

Our trip to East Java

Our trip to East Java

Next week, my partner Nacko and I will be the traveling to East Java as the honored guest of the San Francisco Consulate General of Indonesia.

We are extremely excited to have been invited to visit small coffee farms in Bondowoso, Jember and Bromo. We will also visit with local dignitaries, experience the natural wonders of the area such as Kawah Ijen and soak up information at the ICCR (Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute) as part of Indonesia’s familiarization program for the United States.

Since we launched Kopi Coffee Co in Portland 2 years ago, our obsession with bringing the experiences of South East Asian coffee to our customers has always been coupled with the passion of learning and sharing the incredible beauty of the land and people of Indonesia.

It continues to be the most rewarding part of running our small business and we cant wait to share these new experiences with you on our blog.  

Many Thanks - Xua

Our New Gold Thai Coffee Available Now

Our New Gold Thai Coffee Available Now

Introducing our Gold Thai medium roast. A sweet, floral naturally processed coffee, great for Hand Drips and French Presses with hints of Red Wine and Honey that continuously excite the pallet. The Natural process helps maintain many of the characteristics of the stunning area it is grown in.

The area, known as The Golden Triangle, has long been associated with opium production and distribution which has begun to produce some of the most exciting new coffee in South East Asia.

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Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to hike around the coffee farms of Northern Thailand. Over several days, I enjoyed a dozen or so amazing cups of coffee, shots of espresso and an incredible preparation coffee jello made with agar agar and served with whipped coconut cream called “Thach Ka-Fae."
The elevation is perfect for high quality coffee growing. The farmers, mostly young men and women, were excited to share with me the different methods they employ at their farms. Years after the beloved King Bhumibol (who past late last year) instituted a transformation of the hillside opium farms to instead produce high quality Arabica coffees - Thai coffee is finally ready to hit the international market.
 

 

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Kopi Kedai is proud to be working with Beanspire, a fantastic collective of coffee experts who are helping the Ahka farmers of the Chang Rai hillsides produce this fantastic coffee.


From Beanspire: “Doi Pangkhon, in Chiang Rai, has 300 households, each typically producing about 1-2 tons of parchment, but this year yield is down. Some farms are as low as 50% of last year's harvest. We are working with about 20 families from Doi Pangkhon now. Essentially, these are micro lots grouped together. All of the villagers belong to Akha Hilltribe and they are very young for coffee farmers, 25-35 years old, mostly. It is a coffee growing industry that's actually working, relative to other origins.”

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