Coffee in Indonesia began in 1711 as an export and controlled by the Dutch East India Company. Coffee arriving in Amsterdam sold for prices so high they cost nearly 1% of the average annual income! Coffee was very profitable for a long time for the Dutch East India Company but not so much for the farmers who grew it under colonial rule. The book Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auction of the Dutch Trading Company widely influenced public opinion on how coffee was traded and the colonial abuses in general. Most of Arabica was wiped by coffee leaf rust in 1876 and there was a major switch to Robusta which is widely seen today in Indonesia.

Indonesia has a unique harvesting process called giling basah which is a hybrid of washed and natural processes. It significantly reduces the acidity and increases the body for a softer and rounder cup. It also brings in earthy, vegetal or even musty flavors at times which is a desirable quality some people wish for in coffee. There has been a push there to encourage processing coffees with a traditional washed method which unlike the giling basah process, doesn’t affect the flavor as much and allows the natural characteristics of the coffee to shine through.

More on the giling basah process: The coffee is depulped and briefly dried to only 30-35% instead of the usual 11-12%. Then the coffee is hulled, stripping off the parchment. The naked beans are then dried again until they are ready to be stored without risk of rotting. This second drying gives them a unique swap-green color. Usually this method would be seen as defective but the market associates this method with Indonesia coffees and continues to support it.  It results in flavors like wood, earth, must, spice, tobacco and leather.

Sumatra is an island in Indonesia, for those who are unfamiliar 🙂 Mandheling refers to an ethnic group from the island of Sumatra. Most Sumatra coffees are a mixture of unknown varieties.

Meet the Bean: Sumatra Mandheling DPindonesia_map

Tasting Notes: Toffee, burnt sugar, nut, cedar, balsamic vinegar and heavy

Varietal: Variety Mandheling

Process: Giling Basah

About the Coffee: 

Sumatran coffees capture the wild jungle essence of this tropical Indonesian island. We cup Sumatran after Sumatran to find that earthy, deep, complex, full-bodied coffee that exhibits low-acidity smoothness and a touch of forest floor funk. A great Sumatran is creamy, sweet, with a touch of butterscotch, spice, and mustiness. (Yes, mustiness, not jungle rot. This is where cupping Sumatran after Sumatran pays off Big!)

Sumatran coffee is a beautiful deep blue-green color with the appearance of jade. There is a tendency to over roast Sumatrans (along with other dry processed wild coffees) as they do not show much roast color, and roast unevenly. Sometimes the beans will look uneven and funky green. This is not a problem, however, or a sign of bad beans. Quality in the cup is what matters, or should matter, not mere appearance of beans.

Sumatran coffees are hand sorted, and come in single-picked, double- picked, and even triple-picked lots. Since Sumatran’s are dry processed and often laid out to dry on the dirt in small villages, sorting the coffee is essential to take out the sticks and stones that the beans inevitably acquire, but triple picking does not necessarily improve the quality of cup. In fact, we sometimes find that over-picked beautiful polished coffees are sometimes bland in the cup.

This coffee was sourced through Cafe Imports, along with the description of the coffee.

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