Roast Pairing #5: Sumatra North vs. North Sumatra

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

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