This story was originally published on Lodestars Anthology.
When I travel, it’s all about local produce and traditional dishes - so my journey to Bali was always going to centre on Indonesian flavours and aromas. My main focus though, was a coffee called kopi luwak, produced using partially digested coffee cherries, which have been eaten by the Asian palm civet. To the uninitiated, it may sound a little dubious … yet ask anyone in the know and they’ll swear is tastes amazing.
Travel has taught me that the best way to have an authentic experience is to strike up a conversation with locals, so I kept my Balinese planning to a minimum and waited to see where the trip would take me …
The waiting was definitely worth it. On my second day on the island, I decide to hire a driver for a short day trip to Tanah Lot temple in Tabanan. My driver’s name is Wayan, a tall man from Kuta, not far from the capital Denpasar. After I wax lyrical about my interest in Indonesia’s coffee culture, he tells me about Sari Uma Agrotourism, a beautiful coffee plantation surrounded by rice fields. We adjust our journey accordingly.
As soon as we arrive, we’re greeted by a young man with an infectious smile. His name is Ngurah Bob and he leads me around the plantation while describing the varieties of coffee and teas they cultivate. We pass shrines, meet a cat-like Asian civet, and arrive intro the man courtyard where I’m offered a tray of coffees, tea and - most importantly - a cup of dark luwak coffee. I make my way through the offerings, which are largely sweet and rich in flavour. My favourites are the turmeric tea and coconut coffee. And then I turn to the luwak. My first sip is a little cautious, but I’m immediately enamoured. Because the beans are processed through the Asian civet’s intestines and then roasted, the coffee tastes sweeter and smoother, as their digestive enzymes remove some of the bean’s acidity.
Content, my attention turns to the setting. I’m surrounded by striking green rice fields. It has been raining and peal-like droplets still cling to the plants. It’s humid, and I can feel the air thick on my skin. The grey sky cloaks the landscape. It all seems a little surreal, as if what is in front of me is too stunning to be entirely real.
A few days later, a friend joins me in Bali. As soon as I tell her about my experience at Sari Uma Agrotourism, we decide to visit another plantation on our way to Ubud in the north of the island. This one is found in a wilder setting. Palm fronds stretch into the blue sky and the rainforest provides welcome shade. An old lady grinds coffee in a big mortar, while another shows us how they roast coffee beans at a high temperature. The aromas are incredible: coffee mixed with burning wood and pungent spices.
We sit ourselves at a table in the kitchen and try a colourful assortment of teas and coffees, while watching a couple pose for photos on a two-seater swing. In this moment, I’m so grateful to have travelled as I did. I am sat at a table surrounded wilderness, sipping Indonesian coffees with one of my closest friends. We smile at each other and have so much to talk about. I know that this is exactly how I like to enjoy a cuppa.
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