145-year-old Blitar coffee plantation lures tourists with colonial history, internship opportunity

At the foot of Mount Kelud in Blitar, a coffee plantation established at the end of the 19th century offers an interesting experience for tourists.

In the middle of the plantation, which is situated 450 to 600 meters above sea level, tourists can enjoy coffee in the unique colonial atmosphere of the old buildings and factories of the Dutch colonial era. Anthony Fokker, who founded the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker, is said to have been born there in 1890.

The plantation was opened in 1874 by Dutchman HJ Velsink and named “Kultuur Mij Karanganjar”, with the main commodity being robusta coffee and cloves. The name Karanganjar itself refers to the name of the kampong where the plantation is located, namely the Karanganyar kampung, Modangan village, Nglegok district.

This plantation company changed ownership repeatedly until the independence era. In 1960, Denny Roshadi took ownership of the plantation through PT Harta Mulia. After Denny’s death, the plantation was owned by Herry Noegroho, who was the Blitar regent from 2003 to 2016.

Since 2016, Herry’s son Wima Bramantya, who is now 38 years old, has been the owner of the family business in the midst of Indonesian’s increasing passion for coffee and traveling. Wima, who is also the chair of the Blitar District Arts Council, was encouraged to make his family’s coffee plantation a tourist destination by adopting the Dutch version of its name, De Karanganjar Koffieplantage.

Wima opened his family company by holding an annual “Coffee Manten” event, a thanksgiving ritual which he claimed had become a tradition among the descendants of plantation communities ahead of the coffee harvest.

“On average there are around 100,000 visitors each year,” said Wima about the number of tourists who visit their factories and coffee plantations. “The number of domestic tourists is stagnant. As for foreign tourists, there are not many, but they continue to increase in number.”

The location of the plantation benefits from its proximity to the main tourist destinations in Blitar regency, namely Palah Temple or Penataran Temple, which is only about 5 kilometers away.

On the plantation, located about 20 km north of Blitar city, visitors can see a view of coffee trees around the 10-hectare factory complex and observe how coffee is produced and served until it is ready to be enjoyed.

The most interesting spot is the coffee processing warehouse; a large, old building where wet coffee beans are dried, peeled and roasted. Visitors can order coffee while watching the roasting process before the beans are ground into coffee powder.

Around this building, which is located in the deepest part of the factory complex, there is also an attractive spot for taking photos. Around an old building near the plantation, there is a spot to take pictures and dress up in meneer or noni style. There is also a café, one of the places that is immediately visible after visitors pass through the entrance to this area, with a menu of Blitar’s drinks and snacks.

Entering the Karanganjar Coffee Plantation complex, visitors are charged Rp 10,000 (less than US$1) per person on weekdays and Rp 15,000 per person on holidays and weekends. With tickets, visitors can see the museum owned by the plantation owner’s family which contains dozens of kris and spear heirlooms, as well as dozens of paintings, including one painting by the Indonesian modern painter Basoeki Abdullah entitled ‘RA Savitri’ in 1961.

Inside the factory complex there is also a guesthouse even though it only offers less than 10 rooms at a rate of Rp 200 000 per night. The guesthouse is adjacent to the pavilion, a meeting place in the middle of the factory area.

Wima Bramantya said there had been quite a lot of interest from foreign tourists visiting the factories and coffee plantations he manages. Wima underlined the special interest of foreign tourists to find out about Javanese coffee, especially in Blitar.

“Some time ago a group of several buses of school children from the United States came here. There was also a group of school children from Brunei Darussalam,” he said.

As part of the promotion “Wisatawan Magang” (internship for tourists), two years ago the Karanganyar Coffee Plantation opened the opportunity for tourists to intern for two weeks.

With the opportunity of internships, tourists are expected to be able to get more in-depth knowledge about coffee plantations and coffee processing.

“In return, we ask those who take the internship program to work here. Most of them become waiters or waitresses in cafes,” he said, while adding that there were currently three tourists from El Salvador, Japan and Canada who were interning at the Karanganyar Coffee Plantation.

Wima’s father Herry welcomed the changes brought by his son as the head of the company by developing family coffee plantations and factories in the tourism sector. “Now is indeed an era of development in the tourism industry. It is not a problem that this plantation opens a business in the tourism sector as long as it does not disturb the main line of business, namely producing coffee,” he said. (nic/kes)


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