Introduction by Chris Kornman
Indonesia’s island of Sumatra is a remarkable coffee origin, simply unlike much of the rest of the world. Straddling the western edge of Southeast Asia’s Malay peninsula, Sumatra dips below the equator to nearly nudge the eastern tip of the island of Java, wherein lies the country’s capital of Jakarta. North Sumatra is actually not the island’s northernmost province; that distinction belongs to Aceh, a more commonly denoted coffee origin. However, Northern Sumatra contains the globe’s largest volcanic lake, Lake Toba, a caldera formerly the sight of a super volcano that blew its lid around 75,000 years ago depositing ash as far away as East Africa.
The volcanic soil and dramatic ridges that were once volcano walls provide exceptional land for cultivating coffee, as you might have surmised. However, challenges arise due to Sumatra’s damp climate and proximity to the equator, which can create odd variations and extensions in harvest cycles. Our Crown Jewel comes to us as a combination of honey processed lots from three medium-sized estates (called Sidalogan, Sibisa, and Motung) in the Sipangan Bolon region, just to the north of the volcanic lake. The mill wherein the coffee was processed is a family owned company called CV. Yudi Putra, based just to the north in the city of Medan.
Honey processing is not something we typically see from Sumatra, and this is a rare opportunity to observe the truly unique effects of a collision of rare terroir and processing types. After the depulped (but not washed) coffee parchment, still surrounded by some of the fruit flesh, is partly dried, it is hulled while still damp and returned to complete drying as green coffee. This wet hulling style of production is an undertaking seen almost nowhere in the world besides Indonesian islands. The result is an uncommonly flavorful coffee with a ton of fruit flavor layered on the already unique profile we’ve come to associate with the best Sumatran offerings.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This lot contains two cultivars: Caturra and “Linie S.” While Caturra, a naturally occurring dwarf mutation of Bourbon first seen in Brazil in the early 20th century, is quite common throughout the Americas, it is less commonly seen elsewhere in the world. Far more common cultivars in Indonesia are the S-type (“S” stands for “selection”) varieties originally developed in India. Often referred to in Indonesia as “Linie S,” this designation most frequently refers to S-795, aka Jember, a Typica variant that contains some genetic markers from Arabica’s oddball cousin, Coffea Liberica.
What’s normal for Indonesian coffee is at odds with the rest of the globe. Wet hulling often results in higher moisture contents and water activity readings and lower than average density. This coffee’s density is actually fairly normal looking considering how high the water content percentage is. The honey process has left a little bit of a foxy color to the beans, and the green is pungent, like an unlit clove cigarette that’s been aged in a box of raisins. The other notable factor, again fairly common for this area of the world, is its large screen size.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
I love roasting new and exciting coffees like this honey processed wet hulled Sumatra. Since this was the first time I have ever roasted a Sumatra honey and because of the high moisture content I decided to extend the drying time and Maillard stage. With higher moisture coffees the roaster can often experience a lag in momentum and so by extending the drying stage, we can expect a more predictable response at the end of the roast. This extended time in general allows for more Maillard reactions to occur and arguably produces a sweeter cup. Aromatics at first crack were very floral and fruit forward and it made me curious to know what this coffee would taste like in a faster roasting style.
On my second roast, I increased the charge temperature and increased the gas to 3 at minute 2:25 compared to minute 3:48 in my first roast. The overall increase in initial energy decreased the time for drying and Maillard, but I left the post crack development time the same, at around 2 minutes with the same end temperature to isolate some of the variables. There was a lot to like about both roasts, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the clean strawberry and lime flavors that were in the cup. The difference in the flavor of the two roasts was minimal. Our longer roast, PR-346, had a vibrant acidity accompanied by a sweet and fresh tobacco and our shorter roast was a combination of strawberry, lime, pineapple and fig preserves. This is quite a remarkable coffee and I hope to see more like it in my roasting queue.
Brew Analysis by Chris Kornman
We were lucky enough to be hosting our customer and friend Maine Hofius from True North Coffee Roasters in Seattle this week, and she was generous enough to give us a hand brewing and evaluating this crazy, unconventional Sumatran coffee. We started out brewing two Chemexes side-by-side, Jen had PR-0346 and Maine worked with PR-0347, and we quickly discovered that our brewing styles were a little different! Maine’s coffee brewed quickly and showed significantly lower TDS and Extraction percentage due to some slight channelling in the brew bed. It paled next to Jen’s bright and fruity, cedar-smoky coffee. Acknowledging that it might’ve been unfair to the roast, Maine brewed PR-0347 again, this time keeping a slower pour rate to prevent uneven extraction and we thought that, by unanimous decision, this was the nicest of the three brews we tasted. Notes of strawberry preserve, citrus fruits, and apricots were complimented by a balanced acidity and lovely sweetness. The coffee seemed to like the tighter 1-to-15 ratio of coffee to water with a very slightly coarser than average grind setting.
This coffee is available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.