Introduction by Chris Kornman
This pristine, classic Sumatra comes to us from a community of about fifteen hundred farming families located in the regency of Bener Meriah on the Indonesian island. Their coffee is collected by the Sengijo Mill, owned by Mr. Hasballah Yunus, who has provided Royal with coffee since the 1980s.
Bener Meriah is located within the wider region of Aceh, sometimes referred to as Gayo or Gayoland in reference to the local Gayonese ethnic majority. Wet hulling coffee in parchment, locally “giling basah” is common practice here. Rather than letting the coffee remain in its outer parchment layer as it dries after depulping, this shell will be hulled while the coffee is still between 20-40% moisture content. The exposed green will then complete drying, imparting unique flavors commonly associated with Indonesian island coffee broadly, and Sumatran coffee specifically.
This particular offering is immaculate, lightly herbal and full bodied with hints of bright fruit and dark chocolate. It’s available as a 10kg Crown Jewel, and also as full-size 60kg bags… until it sells out!
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
The fact that Sumatran coffees often are comprised, at least in part, of Arabica-Robusta hybrid varieties is no secret. However, naming conventions for the varieties in use often seem to creatively disguise the fact. Take this Bener Meriah, for example, where the listed variety is “Timtim” and the marketed name is Adsenia. Adsenia is a corruption of Abyssinia, the name of the kingdom that occupied much of modern-day Ethiopia, where Arabica coffee originated… yet this is no Gesha story. Timtim is rather the local colloquial for the Timor Hybrid (aka Hibrido de Timor, HDT, Bor Bor, et al.), which was originally discovered on its namesake island in the 1920s. It’s a spontaneously occurring hybrid, but it has functioned as a baseline for many many cultivated varieties including Catimor and Sarchimor, just to name a few. While these cultivars tend to get a bad rap from cuppers, there are a couple of notable benefits: high yield, large screen size, and formidable disease resistance.
In this super-clean Sumatra, the hybrids and heirlooms seem to have agreed upon a peaceful coexistence. Relatively large, if a bid non-homogenous, screen size accompanied by above average moisture and water activity figures are the norm for this origin regardless of cultivar. The density, though, is intriguing – a 0.68 g/mL reading elsewhere would register as pretty pedestrian, but for a wet-hulled coffee it is well above average.
Roast Analysis by Jen Apodaca
The secret of this coffee is to find the sweetness. My first roast has a more stretched out profile which is perfect for creating sugar browning notes. My second roast of this coffee was a short roast with aggressive heat application to amplify the acidity in the coffee. While there was plenty of lemon and cherry, there was also a ton of bell pepper that really dominated the palate and gave the coffee a bitter finish.
The first roast allows us more time for sugar browning flavors to develop and the citric acidity mellows out into a juicy grilled pineapple. It is not necessary to roast this coffee dark to eliminate any vegetal or herbal flavors if that is your desire. A slow approach and more time in the drum will amplify the sweetness and the slight herbal finish will only add to the complexity of this coffee.
Roast one: Lime, grilled pineapple, caramel, brown sugar
Roast two: Lemon, cherry cola, chocolate, bell pepper
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.
From having visited Yunus at his processing facility in Takengon to roasting his coffee here in Emeryville, this is the sort of coffee that truly brings me the feels. My experience cupping in this geographical area told me that at least at origin, I prefer this particular area of Gayo for its deep sweetness and sometimes strangely heady tropical fruit notes. From Singah Mata you can overlook Lake Tawar and the Takengon area on the way to Bener Meriah proper. Then a long winding road takes you down into Bener Meriah. This side of the lake has some better processing facilities (think covered, fresh cement patios and cherry flotation tanks with high end depulpers). I digress; this coffee is an excellent example of what is possible from Bener Meriah, which translates as something like “truly festive.” Apt naming choice, if you ask me.
This was my darkest roast in recent memory at 14.8% roast loss percentage. This roast did not taste remarkably darker than Jen’s (which were at 11%) on the cupping table, however. The high moisture content and large screen size of this coffee had it cracking just a bit later than most (13:55), and I allowed this coffee develop for 1:20 before cooling manually.
The result was the expected Sumatran cedar note, along with some interesting herbals we generally don’t get with these coffees: coconut, mango, and cola.
This year’s crop in Sumatra suffered from low yields, but some coffees came through tasting very nice, this Bener Meriah being a case in point.
Brew Analysis by Sandra Elisa Loofbourow
This Bener Meriah has a classically Sumatran character, but because of the careful attention it received during harvest and processing it remains cleaner and sweeter than most Indonesian coffees. It’s a great indicator of the potential Sumatran coffees have to be truly delicious.
With this in mind, it seemed best to consult someone who loves coffees from this origin. Round these parts, it’s common knowledge Evan G. has a soft spot for Sumatran coffees. Having lived in various parts of Southeast Asia, he often has a unique perspective and a wealth of information on this region. He also happens to love the cup character that Indonesian coffees present. Much like natural processing, Indonesian coffees can be a divisive issue in the our industry. Some cuppers enjoy the earthy, chocolate bassy notes that these coffees produce, while others find them inherently vegetal and baggy. Since this is such a fine example of high quality Sumatran coffee, I wanted to be sure to do it justice in the brew.
At first I was surprised when Evan suggested a higher extraction, mentioning that he often finds Sumatran coffees difficult to extract fully. As a roaster, I’ve always known Sumatran beans to be less dense than many other coffees, so this suggestion confused me. However, Evan pointed out that while they are less dense, it can often be challenging to pull out sweetness from the roasted coffee in the brew. In contrast to high grown African coffees, for example, he often finds that Sumatran coffees needed a finer grind or longer brew times to release their best, most dynamic flavors.
With this in mind I used an Aeropress to brew these roasts. This brew method would requires a fine grind, and allows for a full immersion brewing for maximum water penetration into our coffee. As a result, we got a lot of bright sweet acidity, like craisins and key lime pie, as well as some great sweetness from a prominent apple note, all held together by hearty cocoa and cedar base. What a fun coffee to brew.
This coffee may be available in full size bags as well. Contact Us to find out more.