Sulawesi Buntu Sesean Sapan Wet Hulled Crown Jewel

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Marked by earlier-than-usual arrivals and higher-than-average quality, coffees from the Pacific are having a banner year, despite an ongoing devastation from natural disasters including typhoons and especially the recent earthquake and tsunami that specifically affected the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

This very tasty smallholder-produced Sulawesi landed next to some Red Cherry Project Indonesiaslovely in their own right—though it was clear which among them stood out as Crown Jewel worthy. Its soothing, silky mouthfeel accompanies a refreshing, cooling menthol sensation and strong notes of cedar and raisin, with some supporting flavors of tea and blackberry.

Located in the Tana Toraja Regency of South Sulawesi, a well regarded coffee growing region, the farmers who produced this lot live and work along the slopes of the Sesean Mountain range. On its eastern slope, cherry is brought down to the market town of Minanga, while on the west the cherry arrives in Sapan for processing. Prior to 2015, these farmers had been processing the coffee themselves, but since then the establishment of the Cooperative of Toraja Coffee Growers has provided the community with support services from education to infrastructure.

While wet hulled preparation is ingrained in the history of coffee production in nearby Sumatra, Sulawesi’s relative early isolation from Dutch colonial influence resulted in a later introduction of the coffee tree and a stronger washed coffee tradition. However, regional demand for giling basah (as it is known locally) began to change the standard preparation methods on Sulawesi around the 1970s, and this coffee is an example of one of the best wet hulled Sulawesi coffees we’ve seen.

The procedure usually entails some form of pulping, followed by a brief drying period to reduce moisture to anywhere between 20-45%. The coffee is then delivered to the mill, where the parchment is removed while still damp, and the coffee completes its drying as the raw green seed. The practice arose from Indonesia’s earliest days of cultivation under Dutch colonizers, and is as pragmatic an exchange as exists in the coffee growing world, one that minimizes labor and time at the front end of the supply chain – an important consideration when labor and time aren’t being compensated. This method leaves its mark on the distinctive jade-like color of the region’s coffees, as well as their funky, earthy flavors, unmatched elsewhere on the globe.

We’re pleased to add this uniquely clean and complex wet-hulled Indonesian coffee to our menu, available in limited quantities at both 10kg Crown Jewel and 60kg GrainPro-lined jute bags.

Wet Hulled coffees, like this Sulawesi, always present an interesting challenge in grading and roasting. While the coffee is well-dried in terms of moisture, as is typical for this process, the water activity is a little high by comparison. However, this may be counteracted in the roaster by the relatively large screen size and surprisingly high density.

Each of the three varieties included in this lot has an interesting story to tell. Typica is Indonesia’s original contribution to Arabica’s gene pool, first plucked from Yemen, and delivered via the Malabar coastline of India right around the turn of the 18th century. Once it propagated on Java, the tree’s popularity rapidly spread not just throughout the Pacific, but (by way of botanical gardens in Amsterdam and Paris) into the Americas as well. Typica was coffee’s first truly global variety. It can be recognized by its long, narrow leaves and berries and by its conical shrub appearance.

Typica in Indonesia and the rest of the Pacific was largely wiped out by coffee’s first major rust outbreak in the last quarter of the 19th century. In response, both Liberica and Robusta were introduced, and subsequent resistant Arabica selections and cultivars in the 20th century tend to dominate the family tree in this part of the world. Present here are Catimor and S-795.

Catimor, developed in Portugal in 1959, is the generic name of a large number of hybrid sub-varieties whose genetic base includes Caturra—the dwarf Brazilian Bourbon mutation—and the Timor Hybrid. The Timor Hybrid, another unique genetic contribution from the Pacific, was a spontaneous cross of Arabica and Robusta, a highly improbable union as Coffea arabica’s chromosomes outnumber C. canephora’s two to one. Hibrido de Timor (or HdT, as it’s often abbreviated), along with its Catimor descendant, is notable for its high yields and resistance to disease. Despite its Robusta heritage, Catimors are classified genetically as Arabica.

Oh, and last but not least, the stoically name S-795 is relatively well distributed throughout Indonesia, and is a member of the S-type (“S” stands for “selection”) varieties originally developed in India. Often denoted in regionally as “Linie S,” this designation most frequently refers to S-795, also known popularly as Jember. Bred from two resistant parents, Kent and S228, like Catimor it is also a resistant hybrid. While Kent is a true Typica, the first of the Indian heritage of resistant selections, S228 is a spontaneous interspecific hybrid of Arabica and Liberica.

This week was quite a busy one for The Crown and we were unable to get access to our other roasting machines so we roasted two profiles on the Ikawa and then proceeded to roast multiple batches of our favorite one. This wet-hulled Sulawesi was bright and acidic as well as clean and chocolatey on our arrival table. It is also receives high marks across all of the green metric categories: high density, high moisture, high water activity, and a large screen size. This particular coffee has a low water activity reading, low moisture, and is also quite large. I decided to try out my newly altered profile that I used with the Cj1250 & CJ1251 earlier this week. I shortened the drying stage so that the coffee would have more time for non-enzymatic browning. This alteration lowered my first crack temperature by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This new range of first crack temperatures are more inline with what I might see on my Probatino drum roaster. I also added an additional adjustment by bowing the curve ever so slightly making for a more gentle heat application because of the high water activity reading on this coffee.

Both roasts have the same temperature profile, but slightly different fan speed settings. Roast one descends from 80% to 65% at three quarters of the way between yellowing and the end of the roast. Roast two descends from 80% to 65% at the midway point between yellowing and the end of the roast. First crack temperatures were on the slightly higher side and occurred later in the roast than coffees with a higher water activity reading which reduced my post crack development time.

On the cupping table Roast one was bright and sweet with loads of tropical fruit flavors and fresh tobacco leaf. Roast two had more sugar browning flavors accompanied by condensed fruit flavors like raisin, fig, and dates with a smooth texture and loads of chocolate. Between the two roasts, both had a full and silky mouthfeel that is highly prized in coffees from Sulawesi. It is very clean and sweet no matter which flavor profile you prefer. I was particularly fond of roast one for its dynamic acidity. I think I could drink this coffee all day long.

This wet-hulled Sulawesi is super dynamic and tasty. Brewed on a V60, the notes ranged from peaches to lemongrass, from vanilla to honeydew melon. It’s a balanced and chuggable cup, but if you manage to stop for a moment between slurps it has a ton of complexity that should be enjoyed.

Feeling experimental, I pulled out the Kruve sifter and set the screens to 400-900μm. Despite calibrating my EK43 no more than three months ago, I had to grind through about 80g of coffee to get 25g of coffee in my ideal screen size. The vast majority of the coffee was above my preferred screen size, indicating that I could either tighten my grind or use a wider screen selection. The resulting brew was also pretty heavily over extracted, indicating yet again that I could have used a coarser grind.

Despite this over extraction, the cup was bright and taste: white grape, peach, and dried raspberry all led the charge with a phosphoric and effervescent punch, while honeycomb, vanilla, and dates followed up with plenty of sweetness. The notes of lemongrass, eucalyptus and lime zest are most likely a result of over extraction, but rather than detracting they simply added another layer of complexity to the cup.

Coffee Background

Sulawesi Buntu Sesean Sapan Wet Hulled Crown Jewel is sourced from family owned farms organized around the Toraja Coffee Growers Cooperative located in the central mountain region of the South Sulawesi province on Sulawesi Island (formerly known as Celebes), Indonesia. Sulawesi is a starfish shaped island, far older than the rest of the Indonesian archipelago, with a complex geography that includes thousand-foot rock walls exploding vertically out of rice paddy fields and capped in perpetual mist. Coffee is grown in this geographic wonderland at elevations that reach 2000 MASL, considered to be some of the highest growing elevations in all of Indonesia. The Toraja people who grow the coffee are an indigenous group with a traditional village lifestyle that includes houses resembling boats and animist rituals called aluk to dolo (the way of the ancestors) that are reminiscent of Santeria. In recent years the Toraja Coffee Growers Cooperative has been collaborating with an NGO called VECO, which is dedicated to improving farmer access to better agricultural practices for quality coffee production and improving coffee farm infrastructure. The partnership has helped to improve quality, increase earnings from coffee sales, and is strengthening farmers’ livelihoods.