Courtesy of Kenneth Davids, 21st Century Coffee: A Guide
The island of Sulawesi, formerly Celebes, spreads like a huge four-fingered hand in the middle of the vast, complex stretch of islands that make up Indonesia. Sulawesi coffees most likely to be found in specialty stores today come from a mountainous region at the base of the island’s southwestern finger, near the town of Rantepao.
The region, Tana Toraja, and the coffee, Toraja, are named after the indigenous people of the region. (During the Dutch colonial regime, Toraja coffees were called Kalossi, after a regional market town.)
At this writing there are two basic styles of Sulawesi Toraja coffee. First, wet-processed coffee produced by the large Toarco (TOraja ARabica COffee) project, conventional in basic cup profile but with some engaging, rather sultry nuance. Second, small-holder coffees that resemble the Mandheling-style coffees of Sumatra both in virtues (when they are good they are deep, resonant and pungently complex in the lower registers) and vices (off tastes range from earth through musty hardness to stagnant water).
Sulawesi Growing Regions
Toraja, although a relatively coherent growing region, is sometimes divided into smaller regions, including Toraja (Tana Toraja, literally Torajaland) and northern Toraja (Toraja Utara). Small-holder, wet-hulled coffees from Mamasa, a growing area just to the west of Toraja, sometimes appear in specialty markets under that name.
The Traditional Sulawesi Cup
Toarco Jaya Conventionally Wet Processed.
These coffees tend to express the sweetness, moderately bright acidity and balance of a conventional wet-processed coffee, though with some unexpected, quietly exotic nuance in aroma and flavor: honey, nut, plum, tart fruit (grapefruit, guava), lily-like flowers, chocolate or roasted cacao nib.
The Better Wet-Hulled Small-Holder Coffees.
Earthy chocolate, pungent fruit (grapefruit, tamarind), aromatic wood (cedar, pine), sweet tobacco, musky flowers.
Old-Fashioned Wet-Hulled Small-Holder Coffees.
Hearty but rough in mouthfeel, leading with what are often called forest floor notes: humus-like earth tending to mildew, and overripe to composty fruit. They also may display pondy or stagnant water hints. These lesser-quality small-holder Sulawesis seldom show up in specialty markets.
Sulawesi Coffee Ratings and Reviews
Click here to view ratings and reviews of coffees from Sulawesi.