World Tea Expo Country Tour: Terroir and Organic Focuses of Indonesian Tea

Visit the Indonesia Pavilion at World Tea Expo to get the full view of what’s happening with tea in Indonesia today.

Tea workers at the Harendong Organic Tea Estate, photo credit: Harendong.com

Indonesia is the sixth largest tea producing country in the world. Indonesia’s government has invested in the country’s tea industry and recognizes the importance of laborers’ rights and environmentally friendly cultivation.

The Indonesian government and tea cultivators will share the special attributes of the country’s tea at the World Tea Expo.

“Now that more and more people have an understanding of organic farming, they are opening more estates,” said Antonius Budiman, director of the Indonesia Trade Promotion Center. “It’s a combination of the small estates and the big companies that are trying to capture the organic market.”

The small- and medium-sized plantation sector is showing marked growth because it is easier to start cultivating organically on this scale, he said.

Many larger Indonesian plantations were founded during the Dutch colonial era (1602-1942), before certified organic farming was a priority. These plantations are now government owned or privately owned. The Dutch brought Camellia assamica tea plants to Indonesia from Sri Lanka, then Indonesia’s location and terroir produced a tea distinguishable from any other.

Bukit Sari Organic Tea Plantation, photo courtesy of Ronald Goenawan

Indonesia’s nutrient and mineral rich, volcanic soil produces a tea that is unique in taste. The country resides on the equator in the Pacific Ring of Fire and has 127 active volcanoes.

“That is why it is different than tea from India, or Sri Lanka or any other place,” Budiman said.

“There is consistency in terms of temperature, humidity and rainfall,” said Melanie Halim, whose family owns the Harendong Organic Tea Estate.

The geographic and environmental factors create consistency in quality and quantity throughout the year, said Halim, who describes Indonesian tea as bright, aromatic and a bit brisk with sweetness, complexity and a clean finish.

The Harendong Tea Estate is an example of a privately owned medium-sized organic tea plantation. The 136-hectare property is located in a mountainous area near Mount Halimun Salak National Park, Lebak, Bantenin in West Java. The estate exclusively grows organic Camellia sinensis tea that meets certification standards for the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. Halim describes Harendong’s tea as chocolaty with no bitterness.

Some American companies have already caught on to the quality of Indonesian tea. Teavana, Tejava and Pure Leaf (a subsidiary of Unilever) use Indonesian tea. Budiman said Unilever’s tea expert goes to Indonesia annually to inspect the tea plantations and production process. He added, having the big companies come to Indonesia on a regular basis creates an incentive for local producers to improve their production activities.

“The tea industry is growing in a much better direction,” said Budiman.

Tea leaves from the Bukit Sari Organic Tea Plantation, photo courtesy of Ronald Goenawan

Indonesia has long been known for its coffee, especially its Arabica and Sumatra, and is now giving additional attention to its tea industry. The Ministry of Agriculture is providing more programs that support tea production. Rindayuni Triavini, agricultural attache at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., said, “We are increasing the area for plantations and growing the tea industry.” Indonesia’s mission is to increase Indonesian tea export volume and its value on the world market, which will be a return on the investment in the farmers.

“Indonesian tea is competitive in terms of the quality, the taste and the pricing,” Budiman said. Promoting Indonesian tea at the World Tea Expo is one way in which they aim to increase awareness of its value in the United States, which currently ties with China as Indonesia’s fifth largest tea importer (after Russia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Germany).

“In order to capture the attention of the U.S. market, we are presenting the companies that have more organic certifications,” Budiman said. Four Indonesian tea companies and Indonesia’s Trade Promotion Center will be in the Indonesian Pavilion at the World Tea Expo.

Visit the Indonesian Pavilion at World Tea Expo to learn more about Indonesian tea.

Harendong Indonesian Organic Tea Estate is a certified organic tea plantation committed to growing exceptional quality tea that fully expresses the characteristics of the terroir. Harendong Tea Estate will be in booth 501.

Indonesia’s Remarkable Tea. The  Indonesia Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) Los Angeles is a trade development agency under the Ministry of Trade of Indonesia. Its work includes promoting Indonesian products in the United States, providing information about Indonesian products and assisting Americans in connecting with sourcing partners in Indonesia. ITPC will be in booth 501.

Bukit Sari is a purveyor of organic bulk, packaged tea, spices, herbs and tea blends and is based in Tangerang Banten, Indonesia. The highlands (1,250-1,850 meters above sea level) where it grows its teas are surrounded by natural conservation areas. Bukit Sari will be in booth 501.

PT Tri Bintang Inter Global is based in Sukabumi, West Java, and will be in booth 501.

Liki Tea by Mitra Kerinci Liki estate is located in the South Solok district in the eastern province of West Sumatra, Indonesia; a hilly region between wet and dry zones along the Equator. Liki Tea by Mitra Kerinci will be in booth 501.