Sumatra coffees are famous for their peculiar flavor profile, low acidity, thick body, and rustic flavors that can often be described as earthy. Much of the flavor comes from the way Sumatras are processed, the wet-hull method , not to be confused with wet-processed coffee. The flavor of typical wet-hull Sumatra is polarizing among buyers. Some love it, but they must bracket this type of flavor profile because it would be considered unacceptable from any other origin besides Indonesia. Each coffee drinker has to discover if this type of flavor is right for them, or not; whether it's a go-to daily drinker, an occasional diversion, or flat-out unacceptable.
This is a peaberry preparation of our Lintong-area coffee. Lintong coffees are from Sumatra, the island that is politically and geographically part of Indonesia. Lintong Nihota is the town that has become synonymous with the entire southern part of Lake Toba area. Lake Toba defines the landscape of the area, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world, and the result of the largest volcanic event on earth in the last 25 million years! It is huge, and the coffees from the north and eastern shores are quite different from the Lintong coffees. Lintong coffees are farmed by the Batak peoples that are the indigenous tribe that works the coffee in this area. The family of collectors we source this lot from works direct with the small growers, bypassing the local markets in most cases, where lower grade coffees are mixed in with the better lots. This peaberry can take light roasts as well as dark. Many commercial roasters use color and surface texture as indicators of roast level, and tend to go dark on Sumatras in general because of this. The peaberry has a different roast dynamic, and seems to be a more dense bean that the flat beans from the same region.
The dry fragrance of this coffee has a strong rustic sweetness in lighter roasts, brown rice syrup and raisin, with banana and a hint of sweet tobacco. Darker roasts are very fruited and sweet with allusions to red berries and dark caramel. There's fruited accents in the wet aroma too, baked apple and mulling spices, raisin and cinnamon - and the break produces a nice culmination of papaya and buttery caramel. This is a very sweet set of smells which help define the cup. There's flavors of rhubarb pie, spiced apple cider, and rindy citrus acidity. This brightness paired with intense sweetness is unique in Sumatra wet-hulled coffees. There's a dark caramelized sugar note, with a slightly rustic herbaceous note. The finish has a nice black tea note along with a clean brown sugar and fruit sweetness to it. All in all, this is one of the nicer brewed or pour-over Sumatra coffees. It's one that can change the minds of tasters used to simple, earthy coffees from this part of the world.
his coffee from the village of Aek Nauli is Lintong coffee at it's best. Within the Lintong Nihota area, Aek Nauli lies due west of Dolok Sanggul, another region we buy coffee from regularly. It's just about 5km down the road, so very close, and you can see the Onan Ganjang highlands in the distance. Much of this area's Landscape is defined by Lake Toba, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world. It's gigantic, and the coffees from around this area can be truly unique. 'Aek Nauli' translates to 'village with 1,000 ponds' - ironically it's difficult to find much water in the surrounding area, but there is a small river in Aek Nauli. The people of Aek Nauli rely on rain water for much of their daily water consumption, and this is used for agriculture as well. We work with a mill who buys directly from the farmers, many in the surrounding highlands, keeping lots separated and intact. This is one reason for the top quality of this coffee, the other being meticulous and repetitive sorting during milling - much more so than most Grade 1 Mandhelings.
This lot from Aek Nauli is Lintong coffee at it's best. Even with the rustic elements you might expect from Lintong coffee, there's a relative cleanliness that follows through from dry fragrance to the cup. The dry grounds have a sweet smell of toasted marshmallow, dried cocoanut and red raspberry, as well as an earthy smell of grain sweeteners like brown rice syrup. The sweetness found in the wet aroma is pretty incredible - an intense scent of maple bar frosting along with a raspberry sauce smell comes up in the steam. Breaking the crust reveals notes of dried apple chips and sorghum syrup. This coffee cups nicely, with lots of up-front sweetness. The flavors vacillate between complex sugars like brown rice syrup and caramel sauce, and fruited notes like muscat grape, rhubarb, and citrus. Flavors shift a bit as the cup cools, opening up to a much more in the way of juicy fruits as well as modest acidity. There is a tarragon note too, and these rustic elements are kept well in balance. The finish has lots of citrus zest and cacao nibs, with a pleasantly bittering effect in the long aftertaste.
Onan Ganjang is a town and sub-district in the Lintong area, on the southern shores of the huge volcanic cratar lake, Laut Toba. Coffees from this area have a specific cup profile that is different from Aceh coffees, from the far north. The coffees here are of mixed heritage; a few Bergendal Typicas exist mixed in with the predominate Ateng catimor types. This lot represents a third type, Onan Ganjang, named for the locality where it was widely planted (also sp. Onang Ganjang), but referring to a specific cultivar. To be clear, it's not a Typica type, and it could be a local mutation crossed between Hibrido de Timor and Ateng. But the tree itself is distinctive, healthy, disease-resistant, and produces well. In the cup, the difference is subtle but clear as well; classic flavors, less herbal than other Lintong lots, balanced. This year's production was fairly low in the highlands of neighboring city of Dolok Sanguul, and so we decided to blend a few bags in with this lot - so there is a bit of Ateng and Bergendal mixed in which really worked out well in the cup. This is another premium selection, with the highest quality parchment coffee and best milling and sorting techniques. Lintong coffees are farmed by the Batak peoples that are the indigenous tribe that works the coffee in this area. This Batak coffee is a near-zero defect prepartion, without the usual split beans, broken pieces and crud found in standard Sumatras. It is carefully density sorted and triple-hand-sorted.
This is definitely one of the sweeter smelling Sumatra coffees that we bring in. The dry fragrance is potent and has hints of malted sugar, cinnamon and cardamom spices, fresh tobacco, and tropical fruits, especially at lighter roast levels. Notes of baking chocolate really come through at Full City roast, and the coffee remains very sweet aromatically. The wet fragrance is so sweet and has dark caramel and maple notes, along with a scent of pineapple syrup and apple/cinnamon bread. Herbaceous notes connoting origin come through as well, along with rice syrup, concord grape, and cola. The cup is very syrupy, with a bit of sarsaparilla fading into cocoa bitterness. The light roast has a zesty flavor, like orange or pink grapefruit, and a burned caramel sweetness. Darker roasts have an herbal element, as well as a heavy, stone fruit nectar juiciness, and roast flavors balanced between cola and chocolate. The complexity really builds and you'll taste tropical fruits, fresh herbs, layered chocolate, and lots else as it cools. Full City roast seems ideal for this coffee, but it has a profile that holds up just fine at City+ as well as Full City+. Give this one a whirl as an unconventional, but delicious, SO espresso.
This lot is from the Sijamapola locality in the Batak area of Sumatra, the Lintong region, along the Southern end of Lake Toba. The climate is great for growing coffee and it's a part of Sumatra we've worked in extensively over the past few years. The farmers are rewarded for different tiers of coffee, thus encouraging selection of optimally ripe cherry as well as thorough initial sorting measures. Most of the collectors that process the coffee are now using covered drying patios to create even drying of the wet-hulled coffee, resulting in cleaner cup quality. Sijamapola is a great example of what a difference proper cherry selection and processing can make in the resulting cup. It stood out on the table as having a relatively clean sweetness for a wet-hulled coffee, and without too much of the rustic appeal.
The dry grounds have an interesting warming spice smell to them, like cinnamon and clove. There is a "rustic" element to the sweetness, but it's like brow rice syrup and with heavy allusions to caramelizing sugar. Full City roasts take on layers of aromatic woods, like cedar or rosewood. There's a smoky chipotle smell as well in dark roasts that has as much to do with varietal as roast level. Light roasts are so sweet with hot water added, and the crust smells like cream caramel and raspberry. Dark roasts cross over into burned sugar smell of creme brûlée crust and with a slight note of cumin spice. The cup is sweet, and with a pungent fruit flavor of jackfruit. Subtle tropical fruit notes come out in the cooling cup, and there's a faint flavor of citrus zest. I wouldn't say the acidity pops, but it's more defined than standard Sumatra coffee. It's like apple juice and lends itself to a weighty, clean mouthfeel. The finish is sweet, and with a lingering flavor of herbal tea. Our dark roast was just outside Full City+ territory and was still very sweet, juicy, and with herbaceous flavors of basil and tarragon. It's a nice cup of coffee that will also do well as an "outside the box" single-origin espresso.
Sumatran coffees can be the most earthy, low-toned, and rustic of the Indonesian coffee-growing world, flavors entirely sensed in the anterior regions of the palate. The flavor of Sumatra coffees result from how the coffee is processed, and to a lesser degree the types of coffee varietals planted. Sumatra coffees were once dry-processed, where the cherry is picked from the tree, laid out to dry, and then hulled to green bean in one step. This never worked well because the climate is so wet during the harvest in Sumatra, and rather unpredictable too. So now most Sumatra coffees are wet-hulled (called Giling Basah). Processing starts on the small-holder farms, where they pick the coffee and pulp off the fruit skin in a hand-crank machine. Then most farmers ferment the coffee in small containers to break down the fruity mucilage layer, others simply leave the bags of cherry intact overnight and pulp in the morning. Then they dry the coffee for a few hours on tarps or concrete, and sell it in the local market to coffee collectors. The collectors might dry the coffee a little more, but it is still exceptionally wet when they hull it (hence the term wet-hulled. This wet-hulling is not done anywhere else in the coffee world. The collector then puts the wet, soft green bean (called Kopi Labu, or pumpkin coffee) out on the tarps or concrete to dry. That's another unique aspect of Sumatra processing; nowhere else is the green bean exposed directly to the elements to dry. But in this wet climate, hulling off the outer parchment layer so soon makes the coffee dry much faster, and allows the collector to get it dried down to 14% moisture and sell the coffee to an exporter much sooner than other processing methods. The dried coffee, called Asalan, is prepared on gravity tables and hand sorted again by the better exporters to meet the standards of Grade 1. It takes some work to find a good Mandheling-type coffee, one that doesn't "cross the line" from pleasant earthy tones into the realm of dirty flavors (or worse of all, musty or moldy notes). Our Sumatra Grade 1 Mandheling coffee is from the Lintong Nihota are of North Sumatra. Mandheling is used as a trade name for these coffees but is not a region; It is a different Sumatran ethnic group that historically produced Arabica coffees.
This Mandheling coffee has an earthiness to the sugary aspects, that lie somewhere between grain-like brown rice syrup, and the malty side of unrefined sugars. The dry grounds have a strong scent of ripe berries, raw cane juice and fresh tarragon. Earthy aspects are stronger in lighter roasts, and Full City shows more along the lines of toasted sugars and smokey chocolate. This coffee really sweetens up with the addition of hot water, and takes on much more straight forward notes of brown sugar and butter, along with fresh fig. It's a very sweet crust, and breaking it releases a pungent waft of papaya along with rice pudding in the steam. The cup has a layers of fruit and sugars at both light and dark roast levels. City+ roasts are sweet and bodied, and with notes of kumquat, cane juice, and the tartness of kiwi. This Mandheling definitely has a tropical side to it, and darker roasts show elements of red fruit punch. They also have a bit of burned caramel, with that rustic, unrefined and almost smokey flavor. The finish has a slight dryness and bittersweet quality, reminiscent of Baker's Chocolate - but mostly as mouthfeel, and not flavor. This will make an interesting, rustic-tinged single-origin espresso.