Coffees from Sumatra, the western-most island in Indonesia have long been popular for their distinctive flavors. When new crops reach market, we try numerous samples to make sure we discover the very best of what the island has to offer. For 2018, we are offering Sumatra Karo Highlands, Organic Sumatra Mandheling as well as a Sumatra Decaf.
The western-most island in Indonesia, Sumatra grows coffees at altitudes of over 1000 meters on its northern end. At the green bean stage, the coffee has a distinctive bluish color which is attributed to lack of iron in the soil. Their taste can often be considered smooth, with a sweet body that is balanced and intense. Depending on the region, or blend of regions, the flavors of the land and processing can also be very pronounced. Part of this is due to the unique wet hulling technique (called giling basah) used during processing. Another factor in the diverse and intriguing nature of Sumatra coffee is the large number of small producers; even today close to 92% of production is in the hands of small farmers or cooperatives. In 2016, Indonesia ranked fourth in the world with an estimated export total of 400,000 tons of coffee. Less than 14% of that is Arabica from Sumatra, which makes it a very desirable and often hard-to-find coffee.
A Bit of Coffee History
It wasn’t until the late 17th century that the coffee plant appeared in Indonesia. The Dutch East India Company, seeking to break a monopoly on the coffee trade held at that time by Arab merchants, first brought coffee plants to the islands in a search for suitable habitats for commercial crops. The Dutch Colonial Government, which ruled much of the region, began to experiment with plantings and some of the plants took hold. In 1711, the first green coffee exports were sent home to Europe. Successes came rapidly and within ten years, exports of coffee had risen to 60 tons per year. Indonesia became the largest producer of coffee after Ethiopia and Arabia and trade in the commodity there was controlled by the Dutch East India Company until the 1790s.
By the mid 1870’s, large coffee plantations had been created around the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. As the demand for coffee grew, roads and railroads were created to transport the coffee beans from rural mountainous growing areas to ports for export. During World War Two, however, the growth of Sumatra coffee came to a standstill as many coffee plantations were abandoned. Even after Indonesian independence in the late 1940s, the coffee industry languished as farmers focused on crops such as rubber and palm oil. Slowly, beginning in the 1960s, investment in the country’s infrastructure and technological advances have helped the Sumatran coffee industry grow.
Tasting Notes for our Sumatra Coffees
AROMA: Mild Earth, Dark Chocolate
BODY: Creamy, Full-Bodied
FLAVOR: Caramel, Semi-sweet Chocolate
ACIDITY: Very Low
AFTERTASTE: Lingering, Slightly Spicy
AROMA: Cedar, Clove, Smoky
BODY: Syrupy, Bold
FLAVOR: Baker’s Chocolate, Pipe Tobacco, Walnut
AFTERTASTE: Bittersweet, Earthy
For more information about our offerings from Sumatra or any of our other specialty coffees, call us at 800-835-5943 or email email@example.com.