Microlot Coffee - Gone Missing
    Category: Forbes Life By : Leighton Cosseboom Read : 1440 Date : Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 07:27:50

    Courtesy of PTPN12

    Microlot is an emerging trend in coffee. Microlot coffee comes from small batches of high-quality beans that farmers put extra effort into harvesting, typically from a small area plantation that produces the best beans. The beans from these “microlots” are then sold at much higher prices due to their special quality and extra effort to process them.

    Here’s a typical microlot description for “Java Sunda Hejo” microlot coffee sold on a site called whereismycoffe.com.au: “This coffee was grown in West Java, at 1,200m above sea level, and only recently known to the outside world….The coffee is 100% sustainably grown by the farmers, who handpick only properly ripe cherries….The resulting coffee has mild acidity, moderate-full body, caramel, fruity, chocolaty aroma, and very sweet flavour like berry, chocolate and caramel.”

    While Indonesia’s kopi luwak is generally regarded as the world’s most expensive coffee, some of the best microlots can also fetch high prices. According to Miguel Meza, founder of Paradise Coffee Roasters in Minnesota, on average, consumers pay nearly twice the price for coffees labeled “microlots.” Aside from kopi luwak, Indonesia is no stranger to exotic and novel coffees sold for a premium. However, in this case, it would seem the archipelago has missed the boat when it comes to capitalizing on microlots. When asked if Indonesian companies were participating in the microlot trend, Starbucks Indonesia Director Anthony Cottan replies: “Not that I’ve seen.” Meanwhile, a quick google of “microlot coffee” will bring back results for coffee from plenty of other countries, such as Brazil, Nicaragua and Rwanda.

    The only producer in Indonesia publicly claiming to deal in a consistent fashion with microlots is PT Toarco Jaya in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. An abbreviation of Toraja Arabica coffee, the company officially began in 1976, although its roots start in 1973, when Sulawesi Kohsan was established as a joint venture between Japan’s Key Coffee and Japanese food company Toshoku (today known as Cargill Japan). But in order to get a license in Indonesia, Sulawesi Kosan brought in a local partner, Utesco, a licensed agricultural company. Sulawesi Kosan invested 80% while Utesco invested 20% (the total amount was not made public), and this new entity became Toarco Jaya.

    Part of the problem is the global perception of Indonesian coffee. Indonesia is the world’s third largest exporter of coffee beans, but its coffee is not as honored for its quality because 87% of coffee exported from Indonesia is the lesser quality robusta coffee. (South Sulawesi, however, shows a reverse ratio, with arabica accounting for 96% of the region’s coffee exports, the vast majority of which is done by Toarco Jaya.)