Karnataka is a state in India, and the name of the group who sourced this coffee for us. They work with a fairly large group of plantation farmers throughout different counties within Karnataka, and this lot represents mostly coffees from the city of Chikmagalur. Chickmagalur sits at the foothills of Mullayanagiri range, probably the most famous coffee region in India. The Karnataka folks used to just buy from one growing group, but have since cast a much wider net, where some of the value is in their ability to increase selection, and putting together from this more premium blends. This is a peaberry selection ("PB"), so around 15 screen bean size, and gets a second sort during milling. About 70% of the coffee grown in the region is of the old Kent 975 arabica varietal, and all the coffee is shade grown out of necessity, for reprieve from the oppressive Summer temperatures. I found the peaberries to be dense, and able to take quite a bit of heat. Roasting to a few different levels, we found that City+ and Full City roasts offer the most complexity and balance, and what our review below are based on.
Aromatically, this coffee has impressive raw sugar sweetness, the fragrance and aroma showing alluring pungent burned sugar and spice smells, as well as a fruited pipe tobacco note. There's an herbaceous quality too that seems to shadow the profile all the way through, offering up elements of sweet basil and a licorice accent in the nose. As brewed coffee the sweetness is a mix of unrefined sugar and barley malt sweetness. There's a buttery caramel flavor note too, that fades to Assam tea, and greenish sweet herbal notes in the finish. City+ roasts cool nicely, base bittersweetness is well balanced, and a subtle tea-like acidic impression provides backbone. No doubt a unique cup from an area less represented on our coffee list.
The farm where this coffee was produced is over 40 years old, part of a larger set of plantations that were privately held since the late 1960s. Mr. Sero stepped in and bought one of the estates about eight years ago, replete with a processing facility which was built to process all seven estates some time ago. The 42 hectare farm sits at 1680 meters above sea level, and is still planted in the original tree stock, Blue Mountain Typica and Arusha types. Mr. Sero dry ferments his coffee for 36 hours, perhaps lending to the fruited characteristics found in the cup. The coffee is dried on tarps, which is not ideal, however they put great care in keeping the area clean, turning the coffee regularly to facilitate even drying. There is an old dry-mill on the premises too which is not currently in use, but perhaps an investment in the future. I found the final sort of this coffee to be quite nice, consistent bean size (approx 15 - 17 screen), and with very few quaker beans. You can easily identify and pull out quaker beans because they are yellow, and look unroasted. These are unripe cherries that made it through processing, a common occurrence in small numbers.
Kainantu Sero has complex layers of molasses sugars and fruited sweetness, and sweet herbal notes that accent the cup. A strong scent of molasses and dark brown sugar are emitted from the dry fragrance, along with a light cranberry note. City+ roasts shine a light on Sero's fruited side, bringing about dark berry elements, and even a pungent tropical fruit note in the wet aroma. The cup weaves sugary sweet flavors with dried fruits, golden raisin, fig, with sucanat, turbinado, rice syrup, and more. A cardamom-spice flavor comes out in the cooling cup, and the finish is marked by accents of Thai basil, coconut water, and cacao nibs. Brewing will yield a thick-bodied coffee, and I would stick close to the middle roast levels, not wavering too far in either direction from the City+/Full City range. Too light and the sweetness lacks complexity, and the smokiness of Full City+ takes the focus away from the layered sugar and dry fruit flavors.
The "Saleko", a name for the blue eyed, black and white spotted buffalo, is one of the most prized buffalos used for traditional burial ritual in Sulawesi. The highly valued beast is used in this case to denote a high quality blend of coffees from small producers who belong to a local cooperative in a small town in Northern Toraja, a group made up of nearly 2000 farmer members across 8 sub-districts. That's a large group to say the least, and they've been divided into 87 smaller sub groups in order to streamline processing and quality separation. The group facilitates sales of wet parchment to the famed Toarco group as well as export on their own, and this year have shifted into mostly producing their own coffee, affording farmer members a higher premium. This lot is from one of the higher elevation zones, farms starting at 1800 meters above sea level, and topping out at 2100 meters. This lot is fully wet processed, and sun dried in covered drying rooms. Most farmers grow Typica as well as 795, and older Typica hybrid. The bean size is roughly 17 to 19 screen, which is about the size of a Kenya AA. Being Typica, the seed is elongated and somewhat narrow in comparison to most Caturras or Bourbons. I found it to roast relatively easily in the Quest M3s I use, and being a dense coffee, it responded well to high heat all the way up to the 1st crack. On the Quest you can slow the roast slightly by increasing airflow, which I normally do, but didn't need to with this coffee as the sound of 1st crack wasn't violent or too rapid. A great option for those who's roasters don't have manual heat settings, as there's little worry of the roast getting away from you.
Seleko is a versatile coffee in the roaster, light roasts harnessing balanced bittersweetness and a light citrus effervescence, more developed roasts building a solid core of bittering chocolate roast tone. Brown sugar and caramel sweetness come through in the ground coffee of both City and City+ roasts, Full City giving off more pungent burned sweet qualities. Aromatically speaking, the wetted coffee has a cooked caramel smell that reminds me of caramel corn, a little malty too like the smell of Cracker Jacks. Wet-processed Sulawesi coffees can have convincing acidity, and this Saleko lot delivers in that category. A light citrus vibrance sparkles in light roasting, and is in no way puckering, adding just enough effervescence to the dense caramel and cocoa bittersweetness that follows. The interplay of sweet and bittering tones is balanced, and this along with big body, and the soft acidity, this Sulawesi finds parity with a clean Central American coffee rather than most other Indonesian coffees we carry. Full City and Full City+ roasts really bring out the bittersweet cocoa roast tones. I took one roast to just shy of 2nd crack and was impressed by the decadent chocolate notes, and a finish marked by flavors of dark cocoa wafers, and high % cacao bar.
This Gayo Lues lot is a blend of small producer's coffees from a highland area within Kerinci, Jambi District. In a system where farmers sell to local collector, much rides on the long-standing relationships between the two parties, and the collector is really the key person to determine coffee quality. A good collector buys coffees direct, such as in this relationship, rather than in the local village coffee markets where quality is low, processing of the coffees haphazard, and everything gets mixed together. Average altitude in the region ranges from 1300 - 1500 meters, and the typical varietals grown are Ateng, Bergendal, and Jember. These varietals tend to produce an earthy, low-toned cup. But more than varietal, the process "Giling Basah" has more to do with what is thought of as a "typical" earth-toned Sumatran profile. It 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. The coffee is dried for a few hours on tarps or concrete, sold to the coffee collectors, and then transported to their mill and warehouse facility where it will be processed and stored until time of export. Yes, it's a rough road for coffee, but the best examples of this are some of the most complex coffees we carry. You can read more about Giling Basah HERE. Also worth noting is how clean looking the physical green is. Sumatran coffees generally get a pass when it comes to bug holes, chipped beans, and general discoloration. But this lot from Lues Cike has a uniformity in color and physical condition that is really quite impressive for the region.
Cike is fruited from the outset, a rustic berry smell emits from the ground coffee, along with a green pete-y scent. Both our City+ and Full City roasts had this fruit-forward and herbaceous/earthy mix in fragrance and aroma, and breaking through a wetted crust you get a rush of cooked fruit and tarragon, and an earthy sweetness underneath. "Rustic grape" was one of the first adjectives to pop into my mind when sipping the brewed coffee, both fruit and earth tones are undeniable. The cooled cup has luscious grape flavors at City and City+, as well as a raspberry wine note. This fruit-forward side takes the edge off of the rustic qualities that come with wet hull processing, though I personally enjoy the herbal and forest-y notes of a quality Aceh coffee such as this. They make for some of the most complex coffees we carry, and this lot is definitely one of the better we've had in a while. Full City roasts have earthy chocolate notes, along with more dark berry and an unexpected flavor of ripe cantaloupe, the mix of rustic fruit and chocolate lingering long in the aftertaste.
It's not often we have wet processed Sumatran coffee. The typical Sumatran processing method "Giling Basah" is quite harsh on the coffee, and involves wet parchment bagged up at farms, transporting to mills, peeling the parchment off the still wet seed, and then drying the rest of the way. The flavor that comes with Giling Basah would be considered defective in most other coffee growing countries, but is what's put Sumatran coffee on the map to begin with. But what happens when you remove the lens of rustic processing? This is a rare opportunity to find out. This coffee comes from Gunung Tujuh and Kayu Aro areas, two higher elevation areas around Mount Kerinci. There's a cooperative that serves this growing area, and who is fully washing their coffee, meaning they are pulping, fermenting immediately, and moving wet parchment straight to the drying beds - a departure from tradition. The result is a much cleaner flavor profile than the wet-hulled counterpart, almost no earth tones at all, and acidity that's normally lacking in Sumatran coffee. The farms in this area are planted in older Typica types, and benefit from the high slopes, situated between 1400 - 1500 meters above sea level.
Deep sugar browning smells come through in Gunung Tujuh's dry fragrance, with complex herbal and forest-y accents too, clean smelling relative to a standard wet-hulled Sumatra. I was taken a back by the clean sweetness found in the wet aroma, my lightest City+ roast offering brown sugar and sweet cream smells, glimpses of pumpkin pie, and a mix of dry spice and sweet herbs. Brewing my City+ roast yielded succinct flavors of burned sugar and caramel/toffee, a sweet base that shifts into a flavor of yellow custard, and flan-like. And though I wouldn't categorize this as a "bright" cup, it certainly has an apple-y vibrance that is uncharacteristic of Sumatran coffee, and not to mention a welcome addition! My Full City roast showed an herbaceous side that seemed to be all but missing at a shade less development. Impressions of sweet basil, and fresh tarragon come out as the cup cools, providing contrast to an undercurrent packed with bittersweet chocolate. Body is as dense as this coffee's bittersweetness, which together make for lasting cocoa roast tone intimations in the long finish. We don't get wet processed Sumatrans very often, so this is a rare opportunity to taste the local cultivar without the lens of traditional wet-hulled processing.