Great balance & beautiful flavor from this small South-Asian island.
By Ari Weinzweig
Bali is probably not the first place you think of when single-origin coffees come to mind. Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, Kenya, and coffee’s original home of Ethiopia all likely head the list. Bali, though, for many (like me) is thought of mostly as a tourist destination. Time to change our beliefs—some of the best coffee beans around are coming from this beautiful small island.
More about Bali.
Bali is in the South Pacific, south, and a bit east of Davao in the Philippines (where the cacao for Shawn Askinosie’s 100% cacao content/no sugar chocolate bar comes from), and well to the north of Perth in Western Australia. Coffee is a relatively recent arrival on the island. It came over from the neighboring island of Lombok (where it had been planted by Dutch colonizers as a cash crop) around 1900. In the second half of the 20th century, the higher quality Arabica coffee bushes were planted—a bit of which we now bring to Ann Arbor in the summer of 2022. This particular batch comes from the highlands in Kintamani in northeastern Bali, between Mount Batukara and the active volcano of Mount Agung.
The Balinese coffee culture.
The way the Balinese coffee farmers work is as intriguing and inspiring as the coffee. They have, as per long-standing local tradition, organized themselves into small coops, called Subak Abian. All of the farmers in a Subak share resources in order to assist each other with their work. It’s a collaborative, caring, and kindness-focused model that I’m going to study in greater depth in the coming months! Most of the farmers are Hindus and follow the philosophy known as Tri Hita Karana, “the three causes of well-being:” Harmony with humankind, harmony with God, and harmony with the natural ecosystem in which we live. Their care comes through in the quality of the cup.
The Bali cupping experience.
In the brew, the Bali has everything I like in a coffee—a pleasant bit of both bitter and sweet, a touch of tannin, brightness—all in one equanimous, excellent, beautifully balanced cup. Bali brewed as a shot of espresso was exceptional at the Coffee Company the other day with light flavors of sesame and nutty, like the crust on a well-baked loaf of Country Miche (which I eat a lot of). The Coffee Company crew describes it as having a “rich, nutty aroma with flavors of lemon and brown sugar.”