Resurrecting Fine Flavor in Indonesia
After a life-long fascination with Indonesia, I finally got my chance to visit and to photograph the country’s cacao sector. What I saw could probably fill a large book. These photos represent my attempt at presenting my impressions of cacao farming in this kaleidoscopic nation.
An enormous archipelago of over 17,000 islands that stretch from the giant rainforest-clad volcanoes of Sumatra and Borneo right up to the remote Melanesian province of Irian Jaya, the East Indies, as Indonesia was once known, have lured travelers with romantic images of palm trees and spices since time immemorial. With over 145 million inhabitants, or about half of the country’s population, Java is the most populous island. It is also where the long and turbulent story of cacao in Indonesia began in the 1880s when European settlers first adopted it to their plantations in an effort to establish a new export crop that would improve the balance of trade of what was then a Dutch colonial territory. Today, the country’s cocoa sector encompasses an astonishing array of people, from hardy smallholder farmers in places like Sulawesi and East Nusa Tengarra, artisanal chocolate makers in Bali, and dedicated young flavor experts and researchers all over the country.