Traditionally, Sulawesi coffees have been processed using the wet-hulled method, in the same way as other Indonesian coffees. This process determines much of the cup flavors - the low-acidity, full body, and rustic or earthy notes. We have been sourcing Sulawesi coffees processed a bit differently, where the coffee is dried to a lower moisture as you might find in Central America, and then hulled for export. This results in a cleaner, brighter flavor in the cup, while revealing flavors that are masked over by the wet-hull process.
Sumatra and Sulawesi are known for the Giling Basah (Wet-hulled) process that results in the heavy body, low acid cup profile tasters associate with the region. This coffee is unique in that instead of Giling Basah, it was "dry hulled". These dry hulled coffees are first purchased by the mill owner from local smallholder farmers as wet parchment. They then dry the parchment on patios to a moisture level of around 12%. At this point the coffee is carefully processed and sorted at their own dry mill. Dry milling coffee is something we usually associate with South and Central America, and even parts of Africa - places that are heavily steeped in washed coffee tradition. This is unconventional for this area and allows us to strip off the overlaying process flavor and take in the clean, bright, and sweet cup profile...characteristics that only come with good handling, good altitude, and good cultivar. I've made the trip out to this estate and was so impressed. The operation is a partnership of a Japanese company and roaster. It is located in Tana Toraja and ranges from 1000 to 1250 meters, but much of their coffee comes from higher-altitude smallholder farmers they work with, upward of 1500 meters. Our lots come from these higher altitude regions. While it may be a flavor profile one expects from Guatemala - not Sulawesi - it might also prove to those who don't like the earthy funk of Indonesia coffee that they CAN find something extraordinary from this part of the world.
This Sulawesi lot has a uniquely "clean" profile, boasting a juicy body and articulated sweetness. The dry fragrance has the smell of freshly baked goods like molasses and ginger cookies, as well as raisin cinnamon bread. This sweetness is expounded upon in the wet grounds, with caramel sauce and butter toffee aromatics dominating lighter roasts, while bittersweet roast tones permeate from the crust of darker roasts. Cupping this coffee, you might think it was harvested in Central or South America. Honey and Caramel are the major "sweet" components. Fruit notes are juicy, with apple, green grape, and kumquat. Darker roasts have pulpy orange juice as well as bittersweet cocoa. While this is an unusual Sulawesi cup, it still has flavors that relate it to other coffees of the region. It's herbaceous and has notes of dried basil, sage, and even a hint of tarragon in the finish. Like all things from this producer, the preparation on this peaberry lot is expertly done, thus resulting in exceptional cup quality.
Dry-hulled coffees from Sumatra or Sulawesi are rare. Unlike most wet-hulled Indonesian coffees, this was purchased by the mill owners as wet parchment and then patio-dried to a fairly low moisture level before being hulled at the dry mill. This is very similar to the way coffees are carefully processed in South and Central America, and even Kenya. For all intents and purposes, we could call this "semi-washed" perhaps, in that most if not all of the fruit was removed prior to drying the parchment. Sumatra and Sulawesi are known for the Giling Basah (Wet-hulled) process that results in the heavy body, low acid cup profile tasters associate with the region. Previous examples of dry-hulled Sumatra showed that when you lift that veil of "process flavor", there was little origin character, be it from the cultivar, the altitude, the micro-climate, or anything else, to speak of ... in other words, the coffee was incredibly boring. For those who dislike process flavors this always poses a problem; fruitiness from funky fermentation, or earthiness from the fact that, in Sulawesi and Sumatra, green coffee is dried directly on the ground/patio/tarp with no protective shell or skin. So the question always in the back of my mind was this: are these inferior coffees that are being "flavored" by process something we would not accept from any other origin. If we lift that veil of flavoring, would there indeed be a cup "signifying nothing"? Well, to stand as clear proof that that fear is unfounded, we offer a totally unconventional, partially washed (dry-hulled) coffee from this long-established Estate in Sulawesi.
The operation is a partnership of a Japanese company and roaster. It's a unique flavor, and proves the potential of Sulawesi coffee. Strip off the overlaying process flavor and it soars! Clean, bright, and sweet, these things only come with good handling, good altitude, and good cultivar. While it may be a flavor profile one expects from Guatemala, not Sulawesi, it might also prove to those who don't like the earthy funk of Indonesia coffee that they CAN find something extraordinary from this part of the world. I've made the trip out to this estate and was so impressed. It's located in Tana Toraja and ranges from 1000 to 1250 meters, but much of their coffee comes from higher-altitude smallholder farmers they work with, upward of 1500 meters. Our lots come from these higher altitude regions. All the cherry is processed at their own mills using methods similar to what you would find in Central America or other areas with a washed coffee tradition. While this an unusual Sulawesi cup, it still has flavors that relate to other coffees of the region.
This coffee's fragrance is potent, with dynamic sweetness and brightness. The dry grounds show dark honey and are pleasantly spiced with whole clove and cinnamon sticks. There's even a slight floral note in the lighter roasts that is like chamomile tea. Adding hot water really boosts the sweetness in this coffee's aromatic profile. Muscovado sugar is the first element that comes to mind - unrefined and molasses-like. Our dark roasts hint at herbal qualities that you might expect from coffees of this region, but these less than dominate. This coffee is light in body, and fairly complex in character. The cup profile has balanced sweetness with notes of dark brown sugar and caramel. There is a refreshing component to this coffee with the crispness of green apple and melon. Citrus essence defines the acidity, gentle, yet articulate. There is a slight "earthy-ness" to the finish, with resinous flavors providing an Indonesian twist to a profile that might otherwise be Central American. This Sulawesi coffee is truly unique, and compared to wet-hulled coffees from this same region, shows a pristine profile all the way through to the finish.