Mount Kerinci is Indonesia’s tallest volcano, found just one degree south of the Equator on Sumatra’s western edge. The volcano sits on the border between Jambi and West Sumatra Provinces and is the namesake of the surrounding Kerinci Sablat National Park, a UNESCO and ASEAN heritage site and home to Asia’s largest wild tiger population. It is also the center of an extremely productive agricultural region for tea, coffee, horticulture, as well as ecotourism…You know, all the things you do when you live on an active volcano surrounded by tigers. Gosh we just love Sumatra so much.
The coffee zones immediately around Mount Kerinci have for the past few years been gaining a reputation for being the island’s most innovative. The coffee industry here is small compared to North Sumatra or Aceh, and certainly much more recent. A handful of focused processors and cooperatives here have been looking beyond the giling basah, or wet hulling traditional to the northern highlands, and instead producing fully washed, naturals, and even, as in this case, honey process coffees with maraschino cherry sweetness, chocolate-coated raspberry, and candy-like acids.
UKM Comintoran is a 288-member producer group of very small family farms. Unlike previous Crown Jewel releases from Mount Kerinci’s southern communities, this group hails from the mountain’s northern, less populated highlands, from the regency of South Solok, part of Western Sumatra. Farms average only slightly larger than a hectare each and mainly grow Jember, also known as S795, a very interesting cross between an Indian typica mutation and a liberica hybrid first created by the Indonesian Coffee and Cacao Research Institute, as well as Andungsari, a catimor commonly grown across central Java.
A fully-dried honey process is perhaps one of the last techniques one would think possible in Sumatra’s consistently rainy climates. But by investing in raised beds and shade coverings, Pak Irwan, the general manager of UKM Comintoran, has managed to make it happen, putting UKM Comintoran among few peers in Sumatra processing. Harvest across South Solok is spread across seven full months due to the climate, but thanks to the new generation of growers working together here, sharing knowledge and eager to experiment, coffees like this one are not only possible, but wildly successful.
Sumatra loves drinking coffee and has a booming specialty roasting scene of its own. If you have spent time in certain parts of Sumatra you have likely experienced the unique vexation of drinking wonderfully electric, gorgeous coffees—dry-hulled, perfectly hand-cleaned, even tiny experimental batches--that will never make it onto a ship. In a way Sumatra is the coffee world gone right; the best stuff is in the farmer’s kitchen, or the café their kids own in town, rarely at scale for export. Which makes us all the more proud of our Sumatra microlots and the producers behind them. They are the excellent coffees that do make it abroad, helping us all see Sumatra’s potential for what it is.