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Sulawesi Coffee Guide: History, Flavors & Brewing Tips

Sulawesi coffee

Sulawesi coffee is a rare type of coffee that is hard to get ahold of, known for its unique flavor profile and taste. It’s so rare that it often sells out fast in Starbucks and other coffee shops due to the difficulty of acquiring real, high-quality Sulawesi coffee beans. However, what makes Sulawesi Coffee so unique is that it’s one of the few Arabica-based coffee beans grown in Indonesia. Let’s take a look at this rare, unique coffee and what you need to know about it:

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Sulawesi Coffee Overview

Where Does Sulawesi Coffee Come From?

Sulawesi coffee is a product of Sulawesi Island, a small island that is part of Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the best coffee-producing countries in the world, but Sulawesi coffee only comes from the Sulawesi Island. The island is sometimes called the Celebes Island, which was the name that Dutch colonists in the 17th century gave to it.

sulawesi landscape indonesia
Image Credit: Unsplash (Sulawesi Island, Indonesia)

Coffee was introduced to Jakarta in Indonesia by the Dutch in the 17th century, knowing that the climate was perfect for coffee production. It ended up being a success, and coffee is still grown in Indonesia, though almost 90% of coffee grown is Robusta instead of Arabica beans. Different parts of Indonesia produce different results, which is why coffee like Sulawesi can only be grown on Sulawesi Island.

What Does It Taste Like?

Sulawesi coffee is famous for its creamy, heavy body and smooth taste. It’s comparable to Sumatran coffee, which is also grown in Indonesia, but it’s more acidic and lighter in flavor. There are forward notes of chocolate and spices, ending with faint fruity notes. Sulawesi coffee also has a nice aroma while being brewed, filling the senses with an earthy, nutty scent. This is a rare type of coffee to try and can be difficult to get ahold of, so it’s important to confirm that you are buying Sulawesi Coffee.

What Do the Beans Look Like?

Sulawesi Coffee Beans_Shutterstock_ChristoPhotographer Images
Image Credit: ChristoPhotographer, Shutterstock

Sulawesi coffee beans are naturally light in color, even if it’s a dark roast (which is the best roast type for these beans). It can be hard to tell what the roast is, but Sulawesi coffee beans should never look dark brown or black. If the beans are too dark in color, they’re either over-roasted or, more likely, it’s not Sulawesi coffee.

What Roast Works Best for Sulawesi Coffee?

Since Sulawesi Coffee has a dark, deep flavor profile and earthy notes, a dark roast is best to bring out these natural flavors. The dark roast will enhance a lot of the characteristics of Sulawesi coffee, but a light or medium roast can still bring those out. Light or medium roasts of Sulawesi coffee will change the flavor, so it may lose some of the traits that made it so famous.

three coffee cups
Image Credit: Unsplash

How is it Grown & Processed?

Sulawesi coffee grows on the island of Sulawesi, usually at an elevation on the mountains for optimal growth. While there is a market for coffee on Sulawesi Island, farming is not the main focus for this small island. The farmers that grow and harvest Sulawesi coffee plant it wherever there is room in the mountains, so there’s little to no organization of the coffee plants. After growing and harvesting the coffee plants, Sulawesi coffee goes through the wet hulling method of processing that Sumatran coffee also goes through.

What’s the Difference Between Toraja & Kalossi?

When looking at Sulawesi coffee, two names stand out: Toraja and Kalossi. Both regions on the island specialize in Sulawesi coffee, so you’ll know exactly where the coffee was grown. Toraja is a mountainous region that has a perfect coffee-growing climate, situated in the Southeastern part of the island. Sulawesi Kalossi coffee grows close to the Toraja region, aptly named after a city that is close by. These are simply regions that grow Sulawesi coffee, so they’ll have similar flavors with slightly different notes.

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How to Brew Sulawesi Coffee

Sulawesi’s rich, deep flavor profile makes it a great candidate for espresso brewing methods. For the brightest, freshest taste, grind the beans just before brewing. If you don’t have a way to brew true espresso, try the pour-over and French Press methods. The French Press needs to have coarsely-ground beans, so you’ll need whole Sulawesi beans for it. For the pour-over, we recommend packing the freshly-ground coffee tightly to imitate the body and flavors of espresso.

French Press
Image Credit: yari2000, Shutterstock

Sulawesi Coffee Industry: Where is it Now?

Buying Sulawesi Coffee is a difficult task simply because it can be hard to find a certified Sulawesi coffee grower. It’s an even bigger risk to buy it through Amazon, where it’s either not freshly ground or not real Sulawesi. Some regions also produce lower-quality Sulawesi beans than others, even when grown at high altitudes. When it comes to Sulawesi coffee, region and altitude are important factors.

However, the biggest problem that Sulawesi coffee faces is the lack of regulation and organization, so it’s hard to know if the seller is working with reputable farms. Between the farmers planting in a scattered manner and the lack of structure when selling the harvested beans, there are major inconsistencies with the coffee bean quality between batches.

The other issue is that coffee growing is not the main focal point, so there’s even less of a demand to create a better coffee growing and producing system. The biggest takeaway is to select your Sulawesi coffee with care; else, you might not even be buying real Sulawesi Coffee.

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While it may be a real hassle to get ahold of, Sulawesi coffee is delicious enough to embark on a shopping mission to try it. Between its creamy texture and bold flavors, Sulawesi Coffee is a symbol of pride on the small Sulawesi island. While the coffee industry is still loosely organized and structured, there are dedicated farmers that only produce these elusive beans. If you’re looking to try a premium, specialty brew, Sulawesi Coffee should be high on your list.


Featured Image: theimpulsivebuy, Flickr


Ollie Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones is a zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia. Originally from the US, he thought he loved coffee before his big move down under, but his discovery of the flat white and the cafe on every corner has taken his coffee passion to a whole new level. He's so excited to share his knowledge and experience with readers worldwide (and keep testing coffee drinks while he's at it).

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