Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

Culture, language, tangibles, intangibles from countries known for tea. China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, etc...


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Oct 28th, '15, 00:36
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Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Oct 28th, '15, 00:36

I'll visit Indonesia in December and wanted to hear if anyone had experience with tea themes there, good shops or plantations. I'll probably have next to no time for either because my wife is only willing to spare enough time to visit shops we are already near, which cuts it way back, and once the tea I buy starts to stack up a little that bothers her too. I might come back with none :cry:

I do know of a few interesting places I'll mention, which I'll probably not get to, but the advice people give would work out best for me if existing plans happen to route right past any related options :cry:

A shop in Jakarta (I've only talked briefly to the owner, not tried the teas, but you can sort of tell what page vendors are on right away and they're into tea):

http://www.1teahouse.com/

The best tea I've had from Indonesia (the only one; I guess that also means the worst...) was from here, a very nice black tea:

http://www.harendong.com/

A tea vendor write-up about visiting a plantation. If I just had a few days to kill this place they mention would be perfect, but since I don't, out of the question:

http://chariteas.blogspot.com/2015/10/a ... story.html

Oct 28th, '15, 08:39
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by thirst » Oct 28th, '15, 08:39

Generally people in Indo drink hot (panas) or ice-chilled (es) black tea (teh), sometimes aromatized with jasmine, plain (tawar) or sweet (manis), served with every meal, like rice. It’s also available as a kind of softdrink: Teh botol, a sweet, black tea aromatized with jasmine, is available in all the food stalls wherever you go in the country, basically the local alternative to Coca-Cola.

Other than that…you get green jasmine tea, high-fired wulong, or pu’er in Chinese restaurants, and you’ll also find lots of bubble tea places.

I don’t think you’ll find a widespread tea culture centered around, ugh, connoisseurship, though, and I think most local non-black teas are mainly for export, because they’re really uncommon. Here’s an older article: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012 ... -gone.html

There is a local company (Teh 63) growing wulongs; they have stores in a bunch of malls in Jakarta and also sell imported tea ware. Can’t remember if the teas were any good.

If you want to look for tea generally, local or not, you might have more luck in the more Chinese part of town (Glodok). There’s also Siang Ming Tea Shop in Mangga Dua Square, but I haven’t been there, and there was a shop to which I think I’ve been, apparently called Cawan, in the same Mall, but I’m not sure if it’s still open.

Honestly though, unless you live there, it’s probably a waste of time to look for good tea in Indonesia. You’ll be stuck in traffic, anyway. I’d rather enjoy the food :D

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Oct 30th, '15, 07:13
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Oct 30th, '15, 07:13

Thanks for the input. That reminds me of an experience in Japan this year, in Yokohama. I visited a mall shop at one point, and found another tea shop kind of randomly, but thought to really get better or different tea I might check out their Chinatown.

We did, and of course there were tea shops there. But they only sold Chinese teas, a bit baffled that I might expect them to sell Japanese teas in the one part of town dedicated to sale of Chinese goods. Those teas weren't bad though, a bit on the mid-grade side, but not so expensive, so it sort of worked out, but not for finding interesting Japanese teas.

I did turn up a Japanese black tea elsewhere, one general type I'd only heard of before, but it wasn't a great version. Online shopping really has it's advantages, although it is nice looking around a little in person, you never know what you'll run across.

Oct 30th, '15, 10:23
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by thirst » Oct 30th, '15, 10:23

I’d be really happy to get proven wrong, though – maybe I’ve just been going to the wrong places :D

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Nov 2nd, '15, 00:15
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Nov 2nd, '15, 00:15

I'd be surprised if this trip turns up anything interesting enough to change my impression of Indonesian teas, whether great versions I've not yet tried exist or not. I would expect some do, but reading someone else make such a claim is a bit different than trying it for yourself, and it's really dubious when tea vendor is making that claim.

I'll check back when something comes up but this could take awhile. I'll be on the beach or at an old temple or climbing a volcano instead next month, a bit busy to search for teas.

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Dec 16th, '15, 03:50
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Dec 16th, '15, 03:50

Indonesia was awesome! We did visit one tea plantation, Wonosari, just outside of Malang in East Java. Apparently there were more plantations in Western Java, and perhaps the most in a more central area, Wonosobo.

I was really busy visiting ancient temples, climbing active volcanoes in the middle of the night, and seeing beaches to do that much tea drinking, so I'll have to get back about how those different teas I did buy really were. Two of them were silver needle type, so one would expect that to correspond to a specialty tea, but I'm not so sure about the black and green I bought. I tried a jasmine black tea in passing that was surprisingly good but in general coffee was a lot more prevalent (the coffee I had was ok, but I'm not so into coffee anyway).

As for shops, it seems one would be better off braving Jakarta, which is supposedly a bit of a mess for traffic and urban congestion, so we skipped that city completely. Or visiting a plantation or an area well-known for producing tea, since that natural connection would encourage shops to open with great access to the best teas. I found one shop in Kuta, a relatively urban beach-resort extension of Denpassar, but they only sold a black, green, and white that looked relatively identical to what I'd purchased, which could be decent tea but I'd be surprised if it's exceptional. I think it was from a different plantation in the same region, so probably not exactly the same tea, but likely close to it. I bought some grocery-store loose tea, which they sold for next to nothing, but it's rare that such a thing works out well.

I hate to say it but given there is so much to see and do in Indonesia unless someone is going there just for plantation tours it seems as well to comb the internet for someone to mail you some tea and then go see other things, those beaches, temples, and volcanoes. Or it would be possible to pack in both; give up three days of other sites to cruise through the Wonosobo area, then go on to what we did.

If anyone would like to see the version with more travel details, pictures, and related information links I wrote it up in a blog post, with a link following. But there's essentially nothing at all in it about tea reviews since I did the typical 10-day over-scheduled tour of both Java and Bali, packing away the tea to get back to later instead of setting aside the time to brew it, limited as that is. As much as taking time it was really just one less thing to worry about, mostly going with hotel-breakfast fare, rouging out some loose tea preparation here and there as necessary.

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... th-of.html

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Dec 16th, '15, 04:53
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by jayinhk » Dec 16th, '15, 04:53

Sounds like quite the trip! I know some pretty serious tea connoisseurs in Indonesia via Facebook, but they're into Chinese teas and almost all of them are Indonesian-Chinese. One guy in particular has a really vast collection of Yixings!

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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by CWarren » Dec 16th, '15, 20:07

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Dec 17th, '15, 04:36
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Dec 17th, '15, 04:36

Thanks for the nice feedback. Writing about tea can be a bit thankless, so a blogger has to write for themselves and hope some others get something out of it.

I'm from the US, from North-Western PA, so maybe not that far. The globe-trekking thing was kind of an accidental side-effect of moving to Thailand, almost by chance (if I can drift from the subject of tea a bit here), due to marrying a Thai in grad school, a fellow student. Prior to that I'd been to Europe once, and Canada and Mexico only; the usual.

Living here and going to Indonesia is like someone from New York visiting the American South or West; different, but not that far, not such a big deal. It's a different country, so visa issues come up (you don't need one though, not for a short visit), and language (but they speak plenty of English in Indonesia); otherwise, just a bit unfamiliar.

If it's some consolation you can buy better and more diverse tea than I usually drink online back there, certainly better than what I bought last week. I put lots of effort into drinking different teas--I'm a tea blogger; of course I go overboard--but for what that vacation cost you could drink better tea than I do next year, and it really wasn't all that expensive, less than if you visited the American South or West for a long week. Or maybe with vendors sending me samples you'd need to pay up a bit more, or start a blog, but the general point holds, you don't need to travel the world now to get part of the experience. Seeing the places or getting a feel for the culture is different but I guess a little of that one could get a sample of online, pictures and conversation.

If I can help more let me know. I know some people in different places, and some ways to network to talk to even more, but then Google gets you pretty far for something specific.

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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by CWarren » Dec 17th, '15, 08:55

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Dec 19th, '15, 01:48
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Dec 19th, '15, 01:48

If your plans turn to travel in Asia feel free to ask me for suggestions, or about background. I'm no expert, and not one of those people that travel constantly, but we do get out a good bit, to most of the Asian countries that would come to mind right away. I guess the one exception is Taiwan; haven't been there yet, or to Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, or the Philippines, but from there to most others.

It's always interesting seeing that people are really more the same than different everywhere. When some people write about visiting amazing native cultures and seeing aspects of completely different ways of life that's a real thing, but human experience itself is a lot more consistent than that would imply. The same is true for how people tend to present themselves, in general. Japanese people really are a bit more reserved in public, and Chinese people and Americans are a bit more forward, and Indonesians and Thais warm and kind (with Indonesians just a bit more genuine, it seemed to me), but on the inside the experiences don't differ so much. Or so it seems to me; maybe just my take.

From living here--Bangkok, Thailand--it really took me about two years to get a feel for the culture, which I didn't expect, since I was already married to a Thai for a year prior. So visits are great for seeing the sights, trying foods, getting some exposure to culture, but the deeper level of experience is a different story. I'm not saying it's not worthwhile to get out, and I'm not bragging that I've achieved some level of immersion or understanding others couldn't, just passing on that although people seem more the same than different, to me, those differences are really hard to get a relatively complete feel for. I've been here 8 years now and I can sort of "think like a Thai" but I still wonder to what extent I've got it, or don't.

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Dec 19th, '15, 23:34
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by CWarren » Dec 19th, '15, 23:34

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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Dec 21st, '15, 01:58

I tried one of the teas from Java over the weekend myself, and it wasn't really exceptional, just a bit interesting. It never helps not liking the general style so much, and green tea is one of my least favorite, except for Longjing, I suppose for obvious enough reasons. The tea was ok, just not great.

From discussing tea plantations with someone really involved in the industry there it seems I didn't stumble onto the best example of a plantation, related to one that produced the highest quality specialty-style teas. I tried another from Harendong plantation in the past (a black tea that time) and I think it was aiming for that type of outcome a bit more.

We might naturally think that tea growers should either produce the best possible tea or else a range of teas including that, but in reality it would be hard to assess their demand and the price-point trade-offs. Of course skill in producing tea also relates, the point being instead that all the related factors aren't so clear. I didn't meet anyone in Indonesia that really seemed to get what I was talking about related to the type of tea I was trying to find. The same general thing occurs where I live here, in Thailand, with almost no one I've ever met so interested in tea they'd be trying to find better Thai teas, a lack of demand which may well relate to the supply being quite limited too.

I've written a blog post draft of a review of that tea; I'll add it here when it's finished to include more detail about it.

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Jan 6th, '16, 22:27
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Jan 6th, '16, 22:27

I've reviewed two of the teas from Indonesia, and tried two others, but nothing was really exceptional. I kind of expected that because it didn't seem like I found the best sources of specialty teas in what I happened to cross paths with, but some of the teas were interesting. Those posts:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... ilver.html

The Indonesian white tea had a lot of smoke to it, not really sure why, but it took over the flavor and made it harder to judge. I bought a second silver-needle style white tea (buds only, technically not silver needle per on take on the naming convention I've ran across), so I'll see.

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... n-tea.html

This green tea I bought wasn't exceptional as green teas go, just interesting for being a little bit different. It doesn't help that I don't love green teas as much as others to begin with, and the profile I do like in green teas, around that of Longjing, wasn't how the tea came across.

I also tried a very commercially processed black tea, essentially ground tea, which was quite astringent but ok beyond that, really only ok with milk and sugar given that aspect. I bought that directly from the Wonosari plantation so I'd hoped it would be a little better, one step closer to a specialty tea.

I bought a few really commercial grocery store teas, just gambling to see how they worked out, and only tried a jasmine black tea so far. That was actually pretty good, exceptional compared to how it looked, with a mix of tea, tea powder, sticks, and some flowers. For a purist high-end tea drinker it might seem undrinkable but to me it was nice for an everyday tea, with very limited astringency, decent flavors, earthy with a little mineral and a bit of sweetness, with reasonable balance. The level of jasmine was nice, not strong, complimentary for being subtle. Given the price the tea was fantastic; I don't remember the exact cost but it was in the range of a dollar per 50 grams of tea.

The final verdict is that it's not so easy to travel in a foreign country and let chance lead you to the best teas, and you can only stack the deck so much in advance with online research. It's interesting trying the teas, interesting looking for them, definitely interesting seeing tea grow at a plantation, but to buy the best teas it's as well to do extensive online research and order them by mail. Of course there are exceptions; a place like the Kunming tea market would have a crazy selection, and walking around any city in China is a completely different thing that SE Asia, or even Japan.

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Apr 20th, '16, 07:36
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Re: Tea shops or plantations in Indonesia

by john.b » Apr 20th, '16, 07:36

Change of direction: I found exceptional Indonesian teas from the Toba Wangi plantation. I wrote a review of two of them so far (I'll just link to one, an oolong that was essentially like a good Dan Cong, which seemed kind of impossible even while I was drinking it), and to a vendor profile post:


http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... lung.html

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... wangi.html


Crazy stuff, to find teas on that level, but I guess that's how it can go, it just takes one person making better tea. To start into how they're doing it, an existing commercial-grade tea vendor decided to branch into making better tea a decade ago and did tons of ground work, including years of training on processing and growing and cultivar development in China and Japan. After all that the teas are from local types (assamica) and plants from Taiwan, newer hybrids (var. sinensis, the one that makes Four Seasons teas, Si Ji Chun).

I'd mentioned Harendong teas, which I'm also about to try, and I think they're likely on the level beyond what I found on that trip. It will be interesting to try an oolong and re-try a black tea to compare. Here's the US and English vendor reseller source for more background on what they produce:

http://what-cha.com/brands/Indonesia.html

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