Exotic Sumatra Coffees of Indonesia
The exotic Sumatra coffees of Indonesia are a tropical coffee where you’ll taste more earthy, full bodied, complex flavors that have a low acidity and smooth flavor. Many connoisseurs find its spicy and musty accents very desirable. The color of the beans are more bluish than other beans causing some to over-roast seeking to get to a traditional roasted coffee bean color. When cup quality is the goal, roasters can learn to create the perfect roast profile. Typical Sumatra beans are hand sorted, dry processed and sun dried. The Great American Coffee Company offers Sumatra as a selection of its office coffee service.
Lingtong and Mandheling
The Sumatra Lingtong and Mandheling coffees are subtle in that they don’t hit you in the face, but rather creep up on you with a richness and a more mild acidity. The northern Sumatra coffees are grown just southwest of Lake Toba in the Lintongnihuta district. The climate dictates that these coffees grow without shade by small farmers with a lot of care. Primarily organic (although not always certified).
Most Lington and Mandheling coffees are dry processed in one form or another. Although a typical commercial wet processing is not used by small farmers, they do allow the fruit on the beans to ferment to a degree after picking and pulping. Thrown into plastic bags for a day or so, the pulp is then easier to remove and washed off by hand. This parchment coffee is then dried out in the open. And, since most small farmers don’t have milling equipment, and so sells the beans to middleman who remove the dried mucilage and parchment. The cleaned beans are then dried further and prepared for export. At the port in Medan, another drying phase is used when necessary to ensure that the beans are at the correct moisture content to endure the long trip to the coffee consuming countries of Europe, Asia and the United States.
This more complex, not so standardized processing leaves a wide and sometimes inconsistent result, although typically the variance in the exotic flavors are still very desirable by those who prefer this type of coffee bean. With proper sorting, a consistent lot can be attained without the unpleasant taste of rotten or foul tasting beans. Sumatra aficionados seek out these exotic flavor taints: earthy, clay, and, sometimes, nasty tastes.
Other Arabicas include Aceh, located in the furthest northern regions of Sumatra. Grown around Lake Tawar and the Town of Takengon, these coffees are typically shade grown and pesticide and fertilizer free. The processing methods vary. Some small farmers use traditional Sumatra washed methods which then are similar to the more popular Lintong/Mandheling coffee mentioned earlier. Those Aceh coffees that arrive in the United States and sold by specialty coffee shops typically come from Takengon where the mill uses a wet processing method according to international standards and, often, organic certified. This coffee is lighter bodied than other Sumatra coffees and often has what we call grassy to sweet tastes.
Other Sumatras use the semi-dry processing method where the skin is removed and the beans are sun dried with the mucilage still intact. You’ll find these labeled as “unwashed,” although semi-dry might be a better classification. These coffees are very different than a Guatemalan coffee or a Kenyan coffee.
Luak coffee, or Kopi Luak, is an oddity that is a quasi gourmet bean that first passes through an animal called a luak after the animal has eaten, digested and excreted the beans. Obviously since these beans are fed to caged animals and then collected, production is quite small. Even so, or just because of this, this coffee is an expensive delicacy, selling at retail for hundreds of dollars a pound after being roasted. The digestion process replaces the typical fermentation methods used elsewhere around the world. Those who have tasted this coffee claim that it is quite pleasant with a full-body, earthy flavor. Most likely, you’ll never find Luak used as a gourmet office coffee.