• Cher Dayrit

Indonesia Sumatra Mandheling G1

Many of the islands of Indonesia were formed by volcanoes and still benefit from soil that's rich in volcanic ash and ideal for growing coffee.

It's no wonder that some of the world’s most famous coffees are grown on the islands of the Malay Archipelago of Indonesia: Sumatra, Sulawesi and Java. Approximately 15% of all the coffee grown in Indonesia is Arabica. Sumatra is the second largest island of the Republic of Indonesia. Sumatra Mandheling coffee is grown on the lofty volcanic slopes of Mount Leuser near the port of Padang in the Batak region of west-central Sumatra.

Coffee trees were originally brought to Indonesia in the early 19th century by the Dutch, who sought to break the world-wide Arabic monopoly on the cultivation of coffee. Within a few years, Indonesian coffee dominated the world’s coffee market. Yet by the end of the century disease completely destroyed the crop. Coffee trees were successfully replanted and quickly gained a large share of the world market until the plantations were ravaged again during World War II. “Mandailing” spelled here correctly, is technically an ethnic group in Indonesia, not a region, as is Batak. The unique method used in its production results in a very full body with a concentrated flavour, garnished with herbal nuances and a spicy finish.


Giling Basah, the name of the traditional Sumatran process, involves hulling the parchment off of the bean at roughly 50% moisture content; for comparison, most other processes hull coffee at around 10-12% moisture. This unique Sumatran process results in a trademark flavour profile (low acidity and a richness that lingers on the back of the palate) and gives the green beans a signature dark colour. Notes of chocolate are evident in the finish.



Long History and Unique Flavors of Sumatra Coffee

Most of us are familiar with Sumatra coffee today but it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the 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 near Batavia (now Jakarta) and several other locations. Some of the plants took hold and 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 taken over by the occupying Japanese. Even after Indonesian independence in the late 1940s, several plantations throughout the country were abandoned or taken over by the new government when original colonial plantation owners left the country.


Near the end of the 19th century, a leaf rust disease epidemic hit coffee plants in Indonesia. Many plantations were wiped out, leaving farmers to turn to other crops such as rubber trees and tea. The Dutch Government responded by importing and planting Liberica coffee, however this strain of coffee plants was also soon affected by leaf rust. They next turned to Robusta coffee, hoping it would be more resistant to the disease. It proved successful and today Robusta makes up over 75% of Indonesia’s coffee exports, much of it from the southern end of Sumatra.


Coffees from Sumatra, the western-most island in Indonesia, have a distinctive bluish color at the green bean stage 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 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 northern Sumatra, which makes it a very desirable and often hard-to-find coffee.


ROASTING SUMATRA MANDHELING

Mandheling coffees have very prominent spicy flavours and a body that are prominent at any roast. A medium roast will always retain most of the nuanced spice flavors, but can sometimes taste underwhelming to those who are used to dark roasts. If you want an even heavier-bodied coffee then it can be taken even as far as a French Roast. The strong, prominent spicy flavours stay true into darker roasts, better than most other coffee beans.



BREWING SUMATRAN MANDHELING

Sumatra Mandheling is also a great coffee for cold brewed specialty coffee drinks (espresso drinks), and takes milk or cream well without loss of flavor. For the best experience, Sumatran Mandheling coffee should be ground for the type of coffee brewer you’re using – this is easy if ordering from a specialty coffee roaster who grinds it for you, otherwise selecting the appropriate setting on your grinder (burr rather than blade) will achieve this.

We recommend using a fine mesh filter rather than a paper filter if going the pour over (eg. Chemex) route, to retain the coffee oils that contribute to the flavour. This is of course a personal preference, and those who find the oils and incidental coffee grounds off-putting should use a paper filter if needed.




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