Initiative aims to increase Indonesian coffee imports

Trade effort focused on expanding the Asian country’s market share in Vancouver

Nusa Coffee director Liza Wajong sees growth opportunity for sales of Indonesian coffee beans in Vancouver | Rob Kruyt

Indonesian coffee farmers are reaching out to Vancouver distributors, roasters and consumers as part of a five-year initiative of Global Affairs Canada to increase trade with Indonesia.

A delegation of farmers joined roasters for a panel discussion in Vancouver April 24, followed by tasting sessions to foster demand for Indonesian coffee, which is enjoying rising popularity in this country.

Canadian imports of Indonesian coffee climbed to $44.3 million last year, an increase of 28% since 2014.

The event was co-hosted by the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre and Nusa Coffee, a Kitsilano Indonesian coffee store and importer. Although many Vancouver coffee houses already carry Sumatra beans from the country, and Indonesia ranks as the sixth-largest supplier of coffee to Canada, they see room for further growth in the city.

However, Indonesian coffee producers face two major issues in getting Vancouver businesses to import higher quantities of coffee – an uncertainty of supply and a higher price tag, problems that Nusa Coffee director Liza Wajong is tackling head-on.

“Green bean supplies are always a big question for importers,” Wajong said. “I’m trying to build that trust relationship with the producers so that I can actually get the supplies on a consistent basis.

“[In the past] with Indonesian beans, harvest time didn’t really guarantee that you can get what you want. Some container loads you’re probably going to get half full.”

When it comes to the higher price of beans compared with other coffee-producing countries, Wajong said getting to know the producers and trying the product directly is the best solution.

“For wholesalers, price is always the case, so there’s no way to try to sell [to them] before they taste it first,” said Wajong. “Once people actually taste the coffee, they can appreciate it and they’ll take the risk and maybe buy a hundred bags.”

Prices of Indonesian coffee will likely remain high until more suppliers start working with farmers to bring costs down, but local roasters like Los Beans in Delta and Republica Coffee Roasters in Langley and downtown Vancouver have already taken to Indonesian coffee and are seeing increased demand for specialty coffee.

“Several of our customers like and ask for Indonesian coffee as just a single origin,” said Hiro Tsujimoto, director at Republica Coffee Roasters. “They’re no longer happy with gas-station-grade coffees of the past. People are wanting to know a lot more of the background of the coffee.”

The event was part of the government’s Canada-Indonesia Trade and Private Sector Assistance Project, which aims to increase trade and investment between the two countries and sent six Canadian coffee buyers to Indonesia last August for a buying mission.