Photograph by Arrizka Faida East West Center in Washington Young Professional

DMV to the Bay: Indonesian Specialty Coffee Shops Flourish

Indonesia ASEAN

The United States is a significant market for Indonesian coffee, accounting for 12.84% of Indonesia’s total coffee exports in 2022. However, it still lacks recognition and representation within the US market. As interest in specialty coffee is increasing, the potential for Indonesian coffee shows positive signs here in the United States.

Indonesia ranks as the fourth largest coffee producer in the world and the second largest in Asia, producing a total of 794.8 thousand metric tons in 2022. It exported 55.75 thousand metric tons of coffee to the United States in 2022, most of which was its Arabica and Robusta varieties. In the Indonesian economy, coffee plays an important role: 95% of coffee plantations are operated by farmers in rural areas, creating jobs for approximately 1.77 million people.

Indonesia is also known for producing a variety of specialty coffees, including Kopi Luwak, Mandailing, Aceh Gayo, Bali Kintamani, and Flores Bajawa Arabica, which are appreciated for their distinct aromas and flavors. While specialty coffees from Indonesia may not be readily available in many US coffee shops, there is, however, a growing demand as shown by the significant sales of specialty coffee totaling US$20.6 million at the Specialty Coffee Expo (SCE) 2023 in Portland, Oregon. This growing interest from US buyers indicates the potential for Indonesian coffee exports to gain added value from their products.

A Taste of Indonesian Coffee in Washington DC

The first Indonesian specialty coffee shop opened in Washington DC in September 2019. Dua DC Coffee intended to share the coffee culture of Indonesia in the US. Vivit Kavi, the owner of Dua DC Coffee, was motivated by the abundance of coffee and natural resources in her homeland, Indonesia. She stated, in conversation with the East-West Center in Washington, embarked on a journey to introduce her local community to the flavors and traditions of Indonesian coffee. Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dua DC Coffee faced an unexpected hurdle by being forced to close just six months after opening. However, from this setback emerged unforeseen opportunities for growth and innovation, as the owner navigated the situation with adaptability and determination.

Their coffee offerings have sparked delight among American consumers, who, with each sip, grow more and more curious by the diverse variety beyond the familiar Sumatra flavors. Its lighter and medium roast coffee surprised customers, diverging from the darker roast commonly found in larger coffee chains. Their coffee beans are tailored for different preferences from the boldness of Aceh Gayo to the richness of Bali Inten, Sunda Gulali, and Sunda Aromanis. Encouraged by the positive response, Dua DC Coffee continues their mission of introducing a variety of Indonesian coffee to the US market.

Vivit is positive about the prospects of Indonesian coffee trends in the US. The response from customers has been welcoming and enthusiastic, as they appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a single-origin coffee from Indonesia, which is currently rare in the DC area where Dua DC Coffee is the sole provider. They believe that their coffee products resonate deeply with American consumers because they prioritize sharing human stories behind each cup. Their popular blends such as Frinsa and Wanoja Coffee come from local farmers in Indonesia. Through sourcing beans directly from Indonesian farmers without intermediaries, they know how to highlight the individuals and families behind the coffee production process. They partner with various cooperatives across Indonesia such as Java Frinsa Estate and Klasik Beans. Vivit mentioned that “coffee connects people, but what is essential is when you share something from their hearts to our hearts.” That commitment improves the quality of their products but also allows them to support and uplift communities back home, creating a meaningful relationship between producers and consumers. It attracts corporate clients, including well-known companies like Google, where they are offering their products beyond traditional consumer channels. Dua DC Coffee proudly operates as an independent entity, without of any franchise affiliations, fostering a unique locally owned experience.

Discovering Indonesian Coffee in the Bay Area

San Francisco recently had its first Indonesian coffee shop open in January 2024, with opening remarks from Mark Chandler, Deputy Mayor for Trade and Cooperation of the City of San Francisco. The owner of Kopiku, Amanda Chinitra, founded Beaneka Coffee and Roastery with a mission to empower small Indonesian coffee farmers, with a commitment to ethical sourcing and fair-trade practices. Beaneka is named after Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which means 'Unity in Diversity,'

Amanda, in conversation with the East-West Center in Washington, said that at the SF coffee festival in 2021, attendees were surprised to learn of Indonesia's large coffee production. With a mission to redefine perceptions of Indonesian coffee, Beaneka focuses on serving specialty coffee brewed to the standards of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).

American consumers have enthusiastically embraced Indonesian coffee products, with signature blends like Kopi Tubruk and Kopi Pandan attracting customers and generating a buzz on social media platforms, leading to an average of over 200 orders per day on weekends. They tailor their coffee products to suit American preferences by opting for medium roasts with less acidity while still offering unique natural flavors. Amanda is optimistic about the growth of Indonesian specialty coffee trends, given significant Indonesian coffee consumption in the United States.

Arrizka Faida is a Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington DC. She received her master’s degree from Cornell University, Brooks School of Public Policy, studying MPA in Science, Technology, and Infrastructure Policy.