Exploring coffee culture of West Java, Indonesia

Last month I travelled to Indonesia for the first time. It was also my first time at a coffee plantation which I dreamt of visiting for a long time.

As you might have seen on my Instagram, I’ve been working with Nespresso for a while, and I couldn’t have been more excited when they invited me to visit the coffee farms they work with in West Java as part of their AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme, and to meet the coffee farmers.

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I didn’t know much about coffee production before and seeing the whole process from bean to cup has made me more appreciative of my daily cup of coffee.

Did you know that Indonesia is currently number 4 coffee producer in the world? The country has a long history of growing coffee - the Dutch brought Arabica coffee plants to Indonesia in the 17th century.  Unfortunately, in the end of the 19th century a huge portion of the coffee plants in the region contracted coffee rust, a fungus that spread very quickly and wiped out entire plantations, devastating the colonial Indonesian coffee industry. 

Coffee farming is currently experiencing a new boom with many farmers switching from growing vegetables to coffee. Nespresso works with about 1000 farmers throughout the country, most of them are small holders with farms of up to 2,5 acres. Most coffee farmers here use traditional organic practices.

Java tea plantation

On the photo above you can see the difference between a tea plantation and a coffee plantation - while tea grows in the sun, coffee needs shade. When planting coffee trees, farmers also plant shade trees. Nespresso has helped the local farmer’s they work with to plant over 100,000 trees in Indonesia over the past 4 years.

The first coffee farm we visited has approximately 2,500 coffee trees. The coffee harvest usually starts in April. The ripe coffee cherries that are ready to be picked are red in colour. Most coffee cherries contain 2 beans.

We made a small contribution to the harvest and had a go at coffee picking ourselves.

Picking coffee cherries West Java
Coffee cherries West Java

The farmers were very friendly and even though they hardly spoke any English, we managed to communicate with just smiles and gestures.

After picking, we joined the farmers for a delicious homemade lunch.

Traditional Indonesian lunch at the coffee farm

After the coffee cherries are picked, they are brought to a wet mill where the pulp is separated from the beans, then the beans are washed and dried in the sun.

Java coffee wet mill community centre

On the middle left image you can see the whole journey of a coffee bean - coffee cherries, wet beans, dry beans and green beans after the parchment covering them is removed. Only afterwards the beans are roasted.

Coffee drying at wet mill in West Java

The dry mill we visited is also a community centre. It was interesting to see that the farmers have no obligation to sell their beans to Nespresso, and are welcome to sell to whoever will pay them the most for their beans.  The beans are sorted by hand and Nespresso only purchases the highest quality beans.

We did coffee cupping where we tried coffee made with underripe and overripe beans and saw how big the difference is!

Coffee cupping
Coffee cupping

The farmers offered us to try a traditional local dessert - sticky rice balls stuffed with palm sugar which were delicious.

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On the second day in West Java we visited another coffee farm. The frees here are shared as Christmas trees, while the type of coffee is the same - arabica. Both arabica and robusta coffee trees grow in Indonesia but both farms we visited had only arabica plants.

Coffee farm west java Indonesia

We spent some time with the farmers to learn about their challenges and how Nespresso helps them with the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme, and took part in planting new coffee and shade trees. The farmers are encouraged to grow vegetables alongside the coffee plants to provide them with a steady food supply.

Coffee farm West Java

Below are some more photos and our delicious lunch from the day.

Indonesia West Java
West Java Indonesia

The next step in the coffee production process after the wet mill is the dry mill. This is where the parchment covering the beans is removed.

Indonesia dry mill workers
West Java Dry mill coffee production
West Java coffee

To meet Nespresso quality standards, the green beans are sorted by hand before being packed and sent to Switzerland for roasting and capsule production.

We met so many wonderful ladies working at the facility who showed us how to differentiate the good beans from the faulty ones.

On the third and last day of the trip we explored the vibrant coffee culture of Bandung.

Contou coffee shop

Cafe Jardin

Cafe Jardin Bandung
sydwic cafe bandung java

This trip wouldn’t be complete without all the wonderful locals we’ve met. I really hope to return to Indonesia one day to explore the other sides of its culture.

In collaboration with Nespresso. All opinions are my own.

Intagrammer's guide to 48 hours in Singapore

Many people are choosing Singapore as a stopover while travelling to Asia but not many are staying for more than a day. I’d like to show you here that there’s a lot more to see in Singapore than you might think.

Singapore Garden's by the bay

Traditional Peranakan houses

The best spot to see the traditional Peranakan houses is Joo Chiat Road, where you’ll find early 20th century shop-houses, terrace houses and bungalows - in a myriad of rainbow colours! The area is quite residential and is slightly off the centre but a quick trip there is really worth it.

The easiest and cheapest way to get around Singapore is by public transport with an EZ-Link card (similar to Oyster card in London) - it can be purchased from the customer service counters at MRT (underground) stations for $12 (this includes a $5 nonrefundable deposit). You can use it both in buses and underground. Taxis are also reasonably priced, download Grab app (analogue of Uber).

Singapore Peranakan houses

Gardens by the Bay

If you have a limited amount of time in Singapore, one spot not to miss is Gardens by the Bay. They look equally amazing during the day and at night.

Singapore Gardens by the bay
Singapore Gardens by the bay

While the gardens are free to visit, you’ll need to purchase separate tickets to go inside the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.

Flower Dome Gardens by the bay

For a different perspective of the gardens and the surrounding Marina Bay area go on a Skyway (a separate ticket is required but it’s worth it). Make sure to be around the Surertree Grove at 7:45pm or 8:45pm for a spectacular free light and music show Garden Rhapsody.

There’s another free light and water show Spektra at Marina Bay Sands. Both shows are really beautiful and worth watching if you have time.

Marina bay sands Singapore

Little India

One of the most vibrant areas of Singapore is Little India. Don’t miss the colourful Residence of Tan Teng Niah, one of the last surviving Chinese villas in the area.

Little India Singapore

Another famous Instagram spot is the rainbow coloured MICA Building, or the "Old Hill Street Police Station", one of Singapore's most colourful colonial buildings. 

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Chinatown

When in Singapore, you can’t miss the Chinatown - perfect for trying all the street food and admiring the colourful Peranakan shop-houses.

Chinatown Singapore

Orchard

Nowadays the area is most famous as a shopping destination but I went there mainly to visit the modern Library@Orchard located inside the shopping centre Orchard Central.

After admiring the library, don’t miss Emerald Hill Road just off Orchard Road, lined up with traditional houses and a cool bar with quirky interiors in one of the shop-houses.

The Pinnacle at Duxton

I didn’t have an opportunity to visit any other viewpoints in the city but the 360 views from the Pinnacle at Duxton are quite impressive. It’s a residential building with a public rooftop on the 50th floor. Getting access to the rooftop is a little tricky - you need to have a transport EZ-link card I mentioned earlier (you’ll have to tap it to get in and out) and $6 cash to pay the entrance fee.

Pinnacle at the Duxton
Pinnacle at the Duxton

Artscience Museum

The building of the museum surrounded by water lilies is very interesting to see on its own. If you have time pop into the Future World exhibition - fun both for kids and adults.

Marina bay sands

Chinese Gardens

Located well off the city centre Chinese gardens are a piece of calm in the busy city and a nice place to hide from the heat. Plus there’s a free viewing point on top of the 7-Storey Pagoda.

Chinese garden Sungapore

Other places to consider

The famous Marina Bay Sands hotel with an infinity swimming pool. You can get to the Observation Deck for $23 without staying at the hotel.

Haji Lane and Arab Street

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Jewel at Changi airport

Autumn in Smaland, Southern Sweden

While we are all patiently waiting for spring to arrive in London, let me show you the wonderful autumnal colours of Smaland, a province in southern Sweden I visited back in October last year. 

This beautiful area is packed with picturesque lakes, pine and spruce forests and is just great for everything outdoors. It’s also home to Sweden’s famous children’s book author, Astrid Lindgren (think Pippi Longstoking). Some of her most well-known books are set in Smaland. 

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Our trip has started with an overnight stay at one of Smaland’s manor houses, Vastana Manor. As we arrived when it was already dark, it took us all morning to admire the house’s fascinating details.

We then headed to the old town of Granna, famous for its wooden red houses and rock candy making. You can find a few shops along the main street and have a go at making your own peppermint rock, which we willingly did. It’s such a fun process to watch and try! 

Granna Sweden

A walk around Granna to admire the red timber houses.

Granna Sweden
Granna Sweden

My favourite Swedish tradition that I happily adopted is ‘fika’ - a break with a coffee and a sweet pastry (Swedish cinnamon buns are just the best!) shared with your friends, colleagues or relatives. Of course, we stopped for a fika in Granna.

Granna is also known for its delicious organic ice cream (I opted for lingonberry, red berries common in Sweden) and crisp bread.

Granna ice cream

After savouring all the delicacies we boarded a ferry to Visingso island. 

Visingso Sweden
Visingso Sweden
Visingso Sweden

Surprisingly, there’s a muesli making facility on the island, home of Susanne Dalsatt and her family who have been producing organic muesli since 1972! 

Visingso muesli

A few more pretty red houses and autumnal hues of Smaland taken on the way to our next destination.

Smaland Sweden
Smaland Sweden

Have you ever heard about Bruno Mathsson? - I haven’t before this trip but this furniture designer and architect is well known in Sweden. His designs are really interesting and were way too modern for his time! Bruno Mathsson carefully studied the mechanics of sitting in search of the perfect sitting curve for his chairs’ designs.

Bruno Mathsson

We visited Bruno Mathsson Centre in Varnamo and saw his birth home which now houses a museum/showroom of his furniture (photos above). We were also lucky to be able to visit Bruno’s and his wife Karen’s house in Tanno. It was built in 1964 has been basically left untouched since the couple lived there.

Bruno Mathsson house

Autumn truly is the best time to visit Smaland - just look at those colours and patterns!

Smaland Sweden

This local specialty is called raggmunk - a dish made from grated potatoes, bacon and lingonberries. Not pictured here - a super fun Segway cross-country adventure we shared at Isaberg Mountain Resort.

I was a guest of Visit Smaland. All opinions are my own.

What to do in Paraty, Brazil

This autumn I had an opportunity to visit South America for the first time. I don’t need to tell you how excited I was! My discovery of this amazing continent has started with Brazil.

After spending 5 days in Rio de Janeiro (a separate post coming soon), I headed to Paraty. Perched between the sea and the mountains, 125 miles south of Rio de Janeiro, this charming town is not to be missed. Its historic centre is quite small so you can easily explore it in a day. I wouldn’t normally stay longer than a day but since I didn’t organise this trip myself, I was offered to spend two days there and thanks to this have fallen completely in love with this place.

I was fascinated by the colonial architecture of Paraty’s historic centre but the locals were the reason this experience was so special. As the town is a popular tourist destination, everyone speaks English (that’s not the case in bigger cities) and is super friendly!

Paraty

Things to do

Take the time to admire Paraty’s Portuguese colonial architecture with its 17th and 18th century buildings with colourful doors and windows dating back to the time when it was an important port during the Brazilian Gold Rush.

After the gold rush, the town became the centre of the sugarcane production and later the coffee production. Paraty is still well-known for its cachaça, a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice, most famous outside of Brazil as the main ingredient of caipirinha cocktail. Make sure to visit local distilleries to sample some locally made cachaça.

Paraty

Take a boat tour to discover some of the area’s most idyllic islands and beaches. Most of the tours start at around 11am and takes about four hours. Alternatively, take the time to wander around and absorb the town’s history while the majority of its visitors are away on one of the tours.

Paraty
Paraty sea

Try locally roasted coffee at cafe Montanita and chat with their friendly baristas.

For an unforgettable local experience, learn to cook Brazilian dishes with the wonderful hosts Yara Castro Roberts, a Brazilian chef and author of the book The Brazilian Table, and her husband Richard Roberts at their Academy of Cooking & Other Pleasures. They will welcome you to their beautiful home for a magical evening of cooking, chatting and eating while learning about Brazilian culture, food and the couple’s international experience.

Paraty old town
Paraty church

Where to stay

There are a few hotels, hostels as well as bed and breakfast in the historic centre. I stayed at the Porto Imperial, a charming hotel located in a former commercial warehouse, dating back to 1804, right in the historic centre, where boats used to dock to transport goods arriving or departing from Paraty.

Porto Imperial Hotel Paraty

Paraty is also home to a lovely puppet theatre - Teatro Espaco where you can enjoy an incredibly touching performance. The puppets are so real that almost look like humans!

Teatro Espaco Paraty Puppet theatre

If I ever go back to Brazil, I hope I will have an opportunity to return to Paraty but for now I’m looking through those photos that are bringing back warm memories.

Paraty
Paraty