Introduction by Chris Kornman
One of most popular and by far our most unconventional Sumatran coffee has returned to the menu in its 2017 iteration. There are many unique characteristics of this wonderfully odd selection, but of course the conversation must start with its flavor.
If a “classic” Sumatra flavor profile is your thing – flavors like peat moss, cedar, green pepper – well, this is decidedly not that coffee, though there are definitely elements, albeit in the background, of that profile. If a clean, cherry-flavored honey processed coffee beats your drum, well this isn’t really that either, though it draws heavily on those fruity flavors we associate with pulped naturals. Really, the coffee is in a category unto itself: a rare opportunity to observe the truly unique effects of a collision of rare terroir and multiple hybrid processing types. It’s marked by a barrage of cucumber, mango, papaya, rose, jackfruit, raspberry, balsamic vinegar, and fernet all rolled into one complicated, alluring, amusing coffee we kinda can’t help ourselves around.
The coffee is grown and processed by farmers located in three villages that have been in partnership with a dry mill and exporter called C.V. Yudi Putra, a second generation family owned business located in Medan, the closest major port city to Lake Toba. Yudi Putra was established by Syahrial Jauhari in 1979, and has been buying the honey process selection from Lake Toba since 2008.
Farmers living in the villages – Sidalogan, Sibisa, and Motung – are all located south of Medan in the district of Ajibata on the eastern shore of Lake Toba in the province of North Sumatra. Lake Toba is the globe’s largest volcanic lake, technically a caldera formed by the demise of a super volcano that blew its lid around 75,000 years ago. The volcanic soil and dramatic ridges that were once volcano walls provide exceptional land for cultivating coffee, as you might have surmised.
We’re thrilled to be offering this crazy coffee as a Crown Jewel anew this season.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Sumatran coffee is often recognized for its distinct appearance – characteristics include a matte jade-like coloration and lack of silver skin. This is the result of post-harvest processing technique known locally as giling basah, or wet-hulling in English, sometimes referred to as seed-dried. The process involves an early removal of the rough, protective parchment coat, that in most locations surrounds the green coffee until sun drying is complete. The result is at least partially responsible for the distinct flavors associated with Sumatran coffee – earthy, herbal, aromatic woods and spices, with sometimes vegetable-like notes.
Because wet-hulling often leaves the coffee seed unprotected from the environment, we often see these types of coffees with more frequent occurrence of discoloration and high moisture and water activity readings. This particular example shows nice color and defect sorting, a medium density and relatively normal looking moisture percentage, but a very high water activity by comparison. You may find this coffee slow to respond to heat early in the roast, but watch for accelerated development in during the Maillard reaction and sugar browning.
The wide distribution of large size seeds is likely somewhat related to the coffee’s seed stock. The 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 denoted 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.
Because of its complex flavor profile and complicated matrix of green coffee metrics, it will be malleable in the roaster – easily bending its flavors to the application of heat during various stages. Check Jen’s notes for some starting points on this unique coffee adventure.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
Always a crowd pleaser if the crowd is filled with adventurous cuppers that want a unique experience. This coffee surprised me and was very easy to manipulate in the drum. I decided to roast a standard filter roast, albeit longer in time (30-40 seconds) than I would a washed hard bean. This allowed for the large screen size range to become more homogenous in color by the end of the roast. I also knew that with a high water activity the roast would progress swiftly through Maillard with little help from me, but I still watched it closely to make sure. There was no “dip” after first crack because of the average density. I let the roast slowly decelerate and finished with under two minutes of post crack development time.
On my second roast, I decided to put the brakes on the heat and I delayed its application to extend the total roast time by 1:30 minutes. I did this by increasing the drying stage and Maillard. My post crack time was identical to roast one.
On the cupping table roast one was full of jammy fruit flavors and had a complementary crisp acidity finish that tasted like a watermelon and cucumber refreshment. Roast two pulled more of the dried fruit flavors into the cup along with an aromatic cedar and black tea tannins. This coffee has an incredible range and I hope you have as much fun dialling in the flavor as I did.
Roast one: Blueberry, concord grape, watermelon, pipe tobacco
Roast two: Mango, dried strawberry, black tea, cedar
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
Around the office, I’m the foremost proponent of Indonesian coffees. There are unique and delicious coffees from all throughout this archipelago that never see the United States due to smaller lot size, higher demand in Asia, and general lack of knowledge of their existence. Right now, a big trend for internal consumption of specialty coffee in Indonesia is unique processing methods, and you’ll see coffees like this one served in cafes in Medan and Jakarta. They’re usually quite expensive by local standards, but very popular nonetheless. Keep in mind that Indonesia is majority Muslim, and most people don’t drink booze; I suppose they’ll just have to get their boozy flavors from the coffee.
That summation isn’t meant to be negative in the least. This coffee was a pleasure to roast and drink, and offered a remarkable sensitivity to roast styles and heat application. Each one of our roasts tasted very different, and none of them unpleasant.
With a very meek crack and longer development time, this Sumatran coffee was rather understated in the roaster. Be diligent and patient with this one, though. I let this coffee develop for 1:55, one of my longer development times so far. This roast still got notes like cherry popsicle and raspberry torte, and had some serious confectionary undertones. So put down the appletini, friendo – have a glass of Sumatra Honey instead. You won’t be sorry.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
Natural or wet processed coffee is a divisive issue. There are many who find it inherently defective and fermenty, or too cloying to be enjoyable. I happen to love naturals and the tropical fruit flavors this processing style can impart on a coffee when done well. The variety of fruit flavors and types of sugar browning that this coffee offered on the table was astounding and actually very exciting.
Rather than try to hone in on one flavor profile or bring out a certain tasting note, I wanted this coffee to speak for itself. It’s incredibly funky and weird, but also delicious, so I approached brewing as a way to just shine a light on what the Sumatra Ajibata had to offer.
V60 brewers are known for creating sparkling clean cups. They also require precise brewing. By using the Stagg kettle I was able to pour slowly and delicately, and as a result my beds were beautifully flat, with even brew walls going less than an inch up from the bed. The Summatra Ajibata created a vibrant and playful cup of coffee that showcased many of the dynamic flavors wet-hulled processing is capable of.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.