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Bali Day 2: Sunday, August 6, 2017

Luwak poop

A basket full of luwak poop. The semi-fermented coffee beans contained in the poop are considered to be the best tasting coffee in the world.

As drove higher up on the central mountain slope above Ubud, Bali, the rice fields gave way to orange groves and other highland agriculture. Our next stop was at a coffee plantation, one of several in the region. Coffee grows on mountain slopes in wet highland areas. It originated in the Ethiopian highlands in Africa and was exported to Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia, but the conditions there are not very good for coffee. Its third location was Indonesia many hundred years ago. It wasn’t until the Spanish conquest of the Americas that coffee emigrated there, where it is now grown in the highlands of central and south America.

Coffee beans

Coffee beans growing at the plantation.

Although it is not native to Bali, coffee has become well established, with plantations staying in families for generations. Gusti knew the people at this plantation and showed me around as we walked along paths to a back area where their store was located overlooking the coffee plants on a steep slope. Along the path itself he pointed out cacao trees (the first I’ve seen, although the season isn’t right for them), Indonesian passion fruit growing on trellises, pineapple plants, ginseng, and a curious vine growing in zig zags up the trunks of other trees. These were vanilla plants, and the stems are dried and ground up for vanilla flavoring, as well as the beans and seeds.

Cacao pods

Cacao pods growing at the coffee plantation. They had a little bit of everything growing here on the high slopes of Bali.

We passed a cage with a rock wall inside and two small animals about the size and shape of a mongoose. They had the large eyes and long tails of nocturnal arboreal creatures, and they were trying to sleep. Gusti told me that these were luwak, which live wild in the coffee plantations. They eat fruit and the occasional live chicken head, and have a taste for coffee beans. They are very good at picking out only the best, ripe beans and eating them. But since coffee is not native here, the luwak don’t digest them very well. The beans will ferment a bit in their stomachs, then get pooped out mostly intact. People go out into the forest each morning to look for the droppings and are very happy to find one cup’s worth. The droppings are bought by the plantations, cleaned off, roasted by hand, ground up, and sold as the most expensive coffee in the world.

Luwak climbing

A luwak in a cage at the plantation. These animals are similar to a mongoose and eat eggs, small birds, fruit, and whatever they can find. They have the large eyes of nocturnal animals, and are especially fond of the best coffee beans, which they only partially digest. People go through the jungles each morning around here looking for luwak droppings, which are collected, washed, roasted, and sold as a premier coffee.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so I wouldn’t know luwak coffee from the cheapest instant blend. I can’t help but think of the unfortunate person who was driven to try out Luwak coffee beans for the first time.

Indonesian passion fruit

Indonesian passion fruit growing as vines on a trellis at the coffee plantation.

We went to the back area of the plantation where a lady was roasting coffee beans over a small fire by hand. Gusti showed me the large mortar and pestle used for grinding up the roasted beans and the final powder. They don’t use automation or machinery here, it is all done by hand and sold in small batches. They also had containers with tumeric, ginger, cacao beans, peppercorns, and cinnamon bark (all grown here) and a large basket full of Luwak droppings.

 

They brought out samples of coffee and herbal teas and hot chocolate. I didn’t try the coffee, as that is against my own religion. I would not normally drink tea either if it was made from tea leaves, but I did sip the herbal teas. I liked the lemon tea, but wasn’t so big on the dragon fruit tea. The chocolate was pretty good. They did not offer any Luwak coffee – that is too expensive to give away. I wouldn’t have tried it, anyway.

Ginseng

Ginseng plants growing along the walkway at the coffee plantation. They had many different types of food plants here.

I took some photos overlooking the deep valley where the main coffee plants are located. They showed me through their store, and they had coffee, cocoa, and spices for sale, including nutmeg and saffron.

Saffron

Balinese saffron for sale at the plantation gift shop.

“Saffron! A little saffron would make this!”

Roasting coffee

The coffee beans are roasted by hand on this small stove, then ground, sifted, and sold.

There’s my obscure movie quote for the day, and this time it’s not from Star Trek. As much as I wanted to buy some saffron just to have some, it was a bit expensive and I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I think they were a bit disappointed that I didn’t buy anything, but I’m sure part of my tour fee went to this excursion in a coffee plantation, so I certainly paid for the samples I tried.

Coffee mortar and pestle

A large mortar and pestle for grinding the roasted coffee beans.

We walked back along the path and climbed back into the car. My most anticipated part of this trip was next.

Yellow cacao pod

A yellow cacao pod. Notice that cacao flowers and fruit grow out of the trunks of the trees, not from the branches.

Pineapple

Pineapple plant. The ones we eat grow from the ground like this. If allowed to grow into a full-sized bush, then pineapples grow suspended from the branches but are too sour to eat.

Roasted beans

Roasted coffee beans at the plantation.

Taste test

A taste test – they bring out free samples of different herbal teas and coffees made and flavored here. I don’t drink coffee, but I tried the herbal teas and liked the lemon tea the best. The purple dragon fruit tea was unusual. The hot chocolate was good.

Spices grown at coffee farm

Other spices grown at the coffee plantation on Bali. The front left and middle left are ginger root, the front right is tumeric root (similar to ginger but more orange). The middle right is cinnamon bark. The back left is cacao beans, and the back right is peppercorns. Indonesia was known as the Spice Islands in antiquity for good reason.

Cacao beans

Cacao beans after fermentation at the coffee plantation on Bali.

Vanilla plant

A vanilla vine zigzagging it’s way up a tree at the coffee plantation.

Vanilla vine

The large vine growing on the tree is vanilla. The seed pods are harvested as vanilla beans, but the stems are ground up for the flavoring itself.

David at coffee plantation

David Black overlooking the slopes of the coffee plantation above Ubud, Bali.

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