The district of North Sumatra is actually SOUTH of Aceh Province. Does that make sense? Both Lintongs from the North Sumatra area around Lake Toba and Aceh coffees from the much smaller Lake Tawar have been sold as Mandhelings in the past. And the Mandheling area doesn't even have coffee! But the flavors of these two are quite different; Lintongs have herbal notes and have been much brighter as of late, while Aceh coffees have classic body and flavors, but are perhaps less complex and more of a "blender." How do two great lots from these areas rate side-by-side? We compare our Sumatra Grade One Mandheling and one of our great Sumatra Lintong Blue Batak coffees this week. Both coffees were roasted to the same final temp: 435 degrees by thermoprobe on the Probat, with roast times around 15 minutes. I was trying to roast a bit lighter than even the review recommends for these coffees to ensure we highlight the distinct differences in these two lots. And after cupping the results I am impressed with the herbal and almost sweet quality of the Blue Batak contrasted with the spicey and more bass-note Grade One Mandheling. You may notice how much lighter the Grade One Mandheling looks compared to the Blue Batak, part of this is due to the overall uneven roast color of the Mandheling and part is due to the fact that when I applied the same roast profile to both coffees, the Blue Batak ended up more in the Full City range instead of the target City+ roast. This just proves that roasting is not an exact science and the information from thermoprobes is only one indicator a roaster should use and not an absolute guage. The coffee pairing program has really put me to the test and we encourage all of you to grab a pair of coffees and try your hand at matching roast levels and comparting the results. The fun thing about this pair of coffees is that, on the one hand the Grade One Mandheling couldn’t look more motley in the green stage, while the Blue Batak could win a beauty contest it has been so carefully processed and sorted. No matter, once roasted, they both are stalwart examples of Sumatran coffee. -Josh
Sweet Maria's Weblog
In case you had not noticed, we are able to offer the very popular blends Liquid Amber and Moka Kadir again, since their ingredient coffees are back in stock. While we are really enthused about the new "Espresso Workshop" limited edition coffees, it's nice to have our Standards. But when we can't find the correct ingredient coffees for the Standards, we chose not to offer them. In this case, there was a gap in time where a really good Yemeni coffee for Moka Kadir was not available, and that is a key component. With the Liquid Amber, the trouble was with the quality of India Monsooned lots, and with a perfect Robusta component. Both of those lots, while available from any number of coffee brokers any time of the year, are very difficult to find at high quality levels. We have a new Rwanda Robusta, the first time we have ever had one, and it does the trick perfectly for the blend! We'll be offering it as a selection on our list soon as well, so folks can experiment with it in their own blends. -Tom
New coffees just keep coming. We have two Kona coffees to offer - a bit earlier this year than other years. With the economy the way it is, I know we will not sell a huge amount of expensive coffees, but for Kona fans, this is going to be a good year. Skip and Rita Cowell's coffee is back with the Hawaii Kona XF -Kowali Farm Typica, a classic Kona, big and sweet. Skip and Rita placed first in the Kona Cupping Competition this year with this coffee. Hawaii Kona Lehuula Farm is a new Kona farm for us this year, owned by Bob Nelson. This coffee placed in the top 10 in the cupping competition and makes a nice single origin espresso. Also just added are: Guatemala El Injerto 100% Bourbon - a farm we have carried for many years, a classic Bourbon; Bolivia FTO SHG EP Caranavi, a lively, light-bodied, bright, dynamic coffee; and Brazil Cerrado DP Fazenda Aurea, a balanced coffee with great body with lots of espresso potential.
I just finished pouring over 30 samples from an interesting text conducted in Aceh Sumatra. The idea was to identify the best cultivars for cup quality, in a place where there is little attention payed to such things. It was part of a project by an Australian coffee consultant, Anthony Marsh. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it when the REAL experiment occurred, so I received samples that are a bit old and baggy. One of the brilliant things here is that each cultivar is available as a wet-process and a wet-hulled (the Indonesia method) sample. In this, I get the chance to taste the cultivar in a more direct, undistorted way with the wet-process, and then with the flavors imbued by the wet-hull method usual to "Mandheling" coffees and such. I made a table of my results, but it is not of great use since all I have right now are the codes, not the cultivar names these represent. The results were tainted by the older samples, and by a couple mis-roasts on my part. But I could cup through these problems and there were 5 cultivars that were definitely superior (including a couple interesting longberry types) and 3 that were absolute duds. Many others were average or below average, with scoring range for all between 76 and 85. Nothing fabulous, but that's not the point with a test like this.