Teak is indigenous to just four countries in the world – Burma, Laos, Thailand and India. However, due to excessive, unsustainable logging over the past century, natural teak forests have practically disappeared in all of these countries except for Burma. Fortunately for the world, teak continues to flourish in plantations throughout South and Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is from the well-managed, Indonesian plantations of stateowned Perum Perhutani, on the island of East Java, that we source our teak. We asked Molyono, the Sawmill Manager at our factory in Indonesia, to fill us in on a few interesting facts about the plantation teak we use to make our furniture…
What is so challenging about sourcing teak?
Teak is one of the most sought after timbers for high end furniture production and as such there is a growing Global demand. Teak is not indigenous to Indonesia, it was brought to Indonesia by the Buddhist monks in the 16th Century from Burma and it was then expanded into larger plantations by the Dutch to service their ships plying the Dutch East Indies spice routes. All Indonesian teak comes from plantation sources controlled by Perum Perhutani, the government body that controls all the plantations across Indonesia. To ensure Gloster can obtain sufficient teak resource, we have a team of 22 graders who spend the majority of their time travelling to over 30 different locations across Java to select the ideal logs for our production. When selecting logs, our graders select the best logs with the fewest natural defects. This way, we ensure we obtain the best quality and yield recovery to maximise this valuable resource.
What’s the ideal conditions for a teak plantation in Indonesia?
Teak trees are not indigenous to Indonesia but the climatic conditions on Java are ideal for growing teak. Teak grows best in sub-tropical conditions with temperatures ranging between 17 – 43 Celsius and with an annual rain fall of 1250 – 3750mm. In Java, teak can grow on a variety of soils, but for the best results, it needs moderately fertile soil with humus rich top soil – well aerated and free draining.
How would you characterise the teak wood in general?
Teak is widely known as the most valuable tropical hardwood and is mainly used for luxury furniture, ship and decorative building purposes. With its high natural oil content, teak withstands extreme weather conditions and is extremely stable once properly seasoned by kiln drying.
How can you identify the perfect Indonesian teak wood in terms of age, appearance & oil content?
Symmetrical in shape with limited surface defects such as knots and scaring. We look to choose logs that have a thin sapwood layer, which normally also goes hand in hand with a tree that has grown at a slower growth rate, meaning higher levels of density and oil content. We only choose logs with a minimum age of approximately 35 years and upwards to ensure the timber is of sufficient quality, whereas other companies use teak which is only 10 years old and has little density or oil content.
Any other stories to tell about teak wood on Java?
Teak plantations are really no different than any other crop, except that the growing cycle is far longer. It can take anything from 35 to 50 years for a teak tree to fully mature – Teak is a noble material and not something that can be rushed! The teak plantations in Java have been managed over countless generations by Perum Perhutani, and today their plantations comprise some 1.1 million hectares of teak, making them the largest teak plantations in the entire world. Perum Perhutani also works extensively with local communities during the rotational plantation cycle, where they allow the villagers to plant crops during the spell period between harvests.