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.
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.