Sumatra Coffees

02/12/2018

 

Sumatra, the largest island in the Indonesian archepelago, has 10 active volcanoes and produces some of the worlds most popular coffee. Anyone who has ever had a cup of Sumatra knows this flat out. What makes Sumatra such a great coffee?  Lots of coffees are famous for huge body like Java, winey acidity like East African coffees, or clean crispness like Central American coffees. Sumatra is unique in that it brings an earthy edge to the coffee. Rich earth, spices, subtle ripe fruity notes, virtually no acid (making it an excellent choice for those who don't like acidy coffees), smoke and good body make this coffee stand out.

Mandheling and Aceh Province

The two major specialty coffee regions of Sumatra are Mandheling and Gayo Mountain, Aceh. Coffees from each of these regions are distinct due to both their geographical location and processing methods. Mandheling coffees are unique in the fact that they are almost exclusively processed by small farmers who usually make use of the semi-washed method to process their coffee. They use a hand constructed de-pulping machines made from a variety of random materials lying around in the backyard (according to Kenneth Davids in his book, "Coffee: A guide to buying, brewing and enjoying") and allow the depulped coffee to set out overnight in the mucileage. In the morning, they hand wash the beans and allow them to dry on mats (or clay) in their front yards.

Unique Coffee - Unique processing

No one knows for sure how much of the earthiness of Sumatras comes from this inconsistent method of processing. In my own experience, Mandhelings can be wildly different from lot to lot. You need to cup quite a few to find a really good one. Coffees from the Aceh region are typically more strictly processed using proper wet mills. This will emphasize consistency and the brighter notes of the coffee.

Fun Facts About Sumatra:

Capital: Jakarta
Languages: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, indigenous languages
Religions: Muslim 87%, Protestant 6%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 2%, Buddhist 1%, other 1%
Ethnic Groups: Javanese 45%, Sundanese 14%, Madurese 7.5%, costal Malays 7.5%, other 26%
Harvest Seasons: Sumatra: Jun-Dec, Java: May-Dec

 

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