Sulawesi coffees can be the jewels of Indonesia. The reason is that some coffees from South Sulawesi are grown at altitudes unheard of on other Indonesian islands. The plants are older Typica cultivars or closely related types, Jember or S-Linea. Although the system of trading the wet coffee before final drying can damage the cup, we have been able to work with suppliers who have mastered the elaborate coffee-collector system in the Toraja highlands. The result is a brighter, more complex and cleaner cup flavor. Traditionally, Sulawesi coffees have been processed using the wet-hull 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.
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.