Headed Back to the Farm

By: Charlie Kodatt

Arriving in Indonesia from the US

After living in Indonesia for almost a decade, then returning to the US during COVID to support family, Toraja Mountain Coffee’s Chief Coffee Officer Charlie Kodatt recently returned to the place where our story starts.

This is the first part of his journey back to the mountaintop farms in Toraja - arriving in Bali.

Arriving back in Bali reminds me of going to visit grandmothers and grandfathers for the summer. You can’t wait to get there. All you can think about is how many people you get to reunite with, the new relationships you’ll make, the incredible cooking you can almost taste while taxiing on the runway.

Once finally arriving at Oche’s house in Bali, the pressures of a busy American life fall off your shoulders, and you can feel the smiles from the locals warming you up and almost hugging you.

It's home. It’s a lifestyle of inner peace and daily learning. The smells of Balinese incense surround you. Almost overwhelmingly, but that’s part of this great culture. The Balinese believe that the fragrance of the incense they burn everyday outside their house, which always has a temple area for their offerings, carries prayers to the gods.

Speaking of fragrances, the craziest smell in Bali, in my opinion, is what’s called “tears.” It's a shrimp paste - made with smashed shrimp mixed with salt and fermented for weeks. The smell is not so great. However, it takes a 180º turn when cooked and is one of my favorite ingredients in dishes there, and it’s in a lot of them.

Balinese Street scene with lots of people and motorbikes

I’ve lived in Bali for 10 years. It’s my base of operations while going back and forth from Toraja to Bali. Bali is what I call “the island with everything.” Anything you need, you can get it in Bali. Seven million people live in Bali and more than 30% are expats from every place in the world. It's probably the most artisan place in the world. So many people, each with their own tastes and culture, weaving and incorporating with each other for an amazing life experience.

And, there’s so much to see in Bali. Waterfalls, rich rice fields, scenic beaches, architecture and restaurants. When it comes to Balinese culture, religion is Number 1. Every day you see the prayers and ceremonial offerings. Secondly, driving or riding on a scooter is vital to getting around. The roads are small, and the scooter allows you to weave in and out of the horrendous traffic, thus increasing your chances of seeing more and more important things.

A jeep driving down a street in Bali, Indonesia.

Another tip to experiencing Bali is to hire a guide. Make sure he or she has adequate language skills so you can communicate efficiently. Allow your guide to take you on a truly localized journey and give you the experience of living like a local. You’ll be shocked how difficult it will be at first, but as the third and fourth day come to a close, you’ll feel as though you can live within the jungles and enjoy it.

Try every food you can, because in Asia food is art and the artist cooking for you is super passionate. They’ll watch your reaction and stare at you for reassurance. Savor the moments and let the Balinese people hug you with their smiles. Hopefully you can get just a taste of this when you have our coffees and have a few moments of connection with this reemarkable culture from the other side of the world.

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