Sumatra is among the great romance coffees around the globe. It isn‘t simply the Indonesian island of Sumatra embodies a Conradian romance from the unfamiliar. Once it is at its best the coffee itself suggests intrigue, using its complexity, its weight without heaviness, and an acidity that resonates deep within the heart from the coffee, enveloped in richness, instead of confronting the palate the instant we lift the cup.
Sumatra Lintong and Mandheling. This praise applies mainly towards the finest from the traditional arabica coffees of northern Sumatra, the very best of those sold under the marketplace names Lintong and Mandheling. Lintong properly describes only coffees grown inside a relatively small region just southwest of Lake Toba inside the kecamatan or district of Lintongnihuta. Small plots of coffee are scattered over a higher, undulating plateau of fern-covered clay. The coffee is grown without shade, but additionally without chemicals of any kind, and almost entirely by small holders. Mandheling is a far more comprehensive designation, referring both to Lintong coffees and also to coffees grown under similar conditions inside the regency of Diari, north of Lake Toba.
Sellers often label Lintong and Mandheling coffees dry-processed. Actually, the fruit usually is faraway from the bean by a number of hybrid methods. The foremost prevalent is really a backyard version from the wet method. The farmers remove the skins from their little crops of coffee cherries immediately after picking using rickety pulping machines ingeniously constructed from scrap metal and wood and bicycle parts. The skinned, slimy beans are then allowed to ferment overnight in woven plastic bags. Each morning the fruit pulp or mucilage, loosened from the overnight fermentation, is washed from the beans by hand. The coffee (now in its parchment skin ) is given a preliminary drying on sheets inside the farmer’s front yard. The parchment skin will be removed by machine with a middleman’s warehouse and also the coffee is further dried. Finally, the coffee is trucked right all the way down to the port city of Medan, where It‘s dried a third and last time.
It‘s reported that elsewhere inside the Mandheling area the mucilage is simply allowed to dry upon the bean following the skins happen to be removed, much as is performed using the semi-washed coffees of Brazil. Thereafter the dried mucilage and parchment skin are removed by machine and also the coffee subjected to a similar two-phase drying, first in the middleman’s warehouse, then in the exporter’s facility in Medan.
Processing and Sumatra Character. I get into these procedures in such detail since it is not clear just simply the amount from the unique character of Lintong- and Mandheling-style coffee derives from soil and climate as well as how much from these unusual processing techniques and also the prolonged three-step drying. Something you need is certain : These procedures produce a sporadically splendid yet extremely uneven product, and just relentless hand sorting in the exporters’ warehouses in Medan assures the deep body and unique low-toned richness from the Lintong / Mandheling origins emerge intact coming from the distractions of dirty-tasting beans along with other taints.
Some admirers of Sumatra enjoy certain of those flavor taints. Earthy Sumatras, which grab the taste of fresh clay from having been dried on the earth, are popular among some coffee drinkers. Musty Sumatras, which acquire the rather hard, mildewy taste of old shoes inside a damp closet, will also be attractive to some palates.
Sumatra Gayo Mountain, Aceh. Less famous than Lintong and Mandheling are arabicas from Aceh, the province in the northernmost tip of Sumatra. Aceh coffees are grown inside the lovely mountain basin surrounding Lake Tawar and also the town of Takengon. All are grown in shade and almost all without chemicals.
Processing methods vary widely with Aceh coffees, however, as do flavor profiles. Many are processed by small farmers using the standard Sumatran backyard washed method. These coffees resemble Lintong / Mandheling coffees, and probably often are sold therefore from the Medan exporters.
However the Aceh coffees most prone to reach North American specialty stores derive from a big mill near Takengon. The mill’s Gayo Mountain Washed Arabica is processed using a meticulous wet method following international standards, and it is certified organic using a Dutch agency. Gayo Mountain Washed ranges from thin and grassy to sweet and subtly rounded, a higher-toned, lighter-bodied version from the Lintong / Mandheling flavor profile.
The Gayo mill also markets coffees which have been processed from the semi-dry method, during which the outer skin from the coffee fruit is removed and also the beans, still covered with sticky mucilage, are sun-dried. These often excellent coffees offer an attractive compromise between Gayo Mountain Washed and also the resonant weight from the traditional Lintong / Mandheling. Such coffees are marketed as Gayo Unwashed. The final term is really a bit misleading. (Did the beans forget to bring a bath? ) A far more accurate description could be Gayo Semi-Dry.
The Infamous Kopi Luak. Luak coffee is just one of those snicker-rich stories beloved of newspaper writers and party raconteurs. This gourmet curiosity consists (ostensibly ) of coffee beans which have been excreted using a smallish animal called a luak or palm civet following the luak has consumed (and digested ) the coffee fruit that previously enveloped those beans. Apparently villagers in elements of Sumatra both gather the beans from wild luak excrement along with feed coffee fruit to luaks kept in cages.
Owing to some production method that‘s clearly limited in volume, Kopi Luak is really a rare coffee that demands by far the very best price of any coffee on the planet market — currently around $300 per pound retail roasted.
Note the luak-assisted approach to picking and processing coffee Isn‘t so outlandish because it first may sound. Presumably the luak, like all good coffee picker, chooses only ripe coffee cherries to consume. And recall that inside the classic wet approach to coffee preparation, a measure involves allowing natural enzymes and bacteria to literally ferment or digest much from the fruit coming from the beans.