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Why isn't Indonesian tea as famous as its coffee?

News Desk
News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, December 7, 2017 | 09:04 am
Why isn't Indonesian tea as famous as its coffee?

Bambang Larensolo, a tea sommelier, said Indonesian teas are still finding their identities. (Shutterstock/File)

While Indonesia has made a name for itself in the coffee industry, the same can't be said of its tea counterpart, despite being the world’s seventh-biggest tea producer.

According to kompas.com, tea leaves from Indonesia are more often used as an ingredient mix for average-quality teas, while tea production spans wide across the country from North Sumatra, Jambi and all over Java Island. 

Bambang Larensolo, a tea sommelier, said Indonesian tea is still finding its geographic identity with respect to its source region. This means that different tea-producing regions across the country are still categorizing its signature characteristics from one plantation to discover a distinctive identity in comparison to other plantations.

"People are only just beginning to use geographic identity. But the issue is that Indonesian teas are still too similar in character to different regions, even though some do have significant [characteristics]," Bambang told kompas.com recently. 

Bambang said the similarity could be because tea plantations are growing the same seeds, which are sourced from the Gambung region in West Java. 

Read also: Govt tours Europe to boost tea exports

"So the real characters of the local teas that have been grown long previously have actually faded, because signature characteristics are not formed quickly," he said. 

The widespread use of the same seeds is not new, as it had been practiced previously, when in the 1990s all seeds were sourced from Sri Lanka. 

Nevertheless, Bambang said, there are regions in Indonesia that have signature characteristics, such as green tea from Pulau Bangka, tea from Malabar in West Java, as well as leaves from Simalungun in North Sumatra.

"Green tea from Bangka is indeed special, but what's famous abroad is actually from Malabar and Bah Butong, Simalungun. [Bah Butong] has a spicy aftertaste," Bambang said. 

He added that tea from Malabar is famous for its floral and fruity aftertaste. In addition, the name is already famous because of its history as one of the oldest tea plantations. Since the Dutch colonial era, the tea has been exported as one of the best teas from Indonesia.

Overall, however, Bambang said Indonesian tea is only a mixed brew and not a standalone or single origin due to lacking character.

"The homework is how to develop tea with a character distinctive from other tea plantations," he concluded. (liz/kes)

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