Intro by Evan Gilman
Lintong coffee is known especially as a purported flavor profile: dry herbal notes, heavy on cedar and brown spice aromatics. What some folks in the specialty coffee industry aren’t as aware of is that many coffees called Lintong are that in name only. Their name often represents a flavor profile, and not a demarcation of where they are produced. It follows that some coffees from the actual Lintong Nihuta district don’t match that flavor profile to a T. The Sumatra Sibuntuon Parpea is one such coffee, in a very good way.
First for its provenance: CV Yudi Putra works with a local purveyor of gabah coffee (meaning freshly pulped and fully washed) and labu (clean gabah dried down to about 25% moisture) named Gokma Hutasoit, who has longstanding relationships with coffee growers throughout the area to the South and East of Lake Toba. Up until a few years ago, he supplied to major multinational exporters who have since left the area, and are no longer buying his coffee. This new relationship with CV Yudi Putra allows him to continue purchasing quality (and quantity) coffee from growers in the subdistricts of Sibuntuon Parpea, Sipinsur, and Sigumpar – as well as a bit from Dolok Sanggul.
There’s a reason this coffee was all spoken for up until recently. The producers working in this area of Lintong Nihuta are some of the best around at preparation and sorting, and the coffee they provide to the market was previously sold under any number of marketable names. I could list them until I go blue in the face, hint hint.
Many times, these coffees are blended into coffees from the general Lake Toba region as a sweetness and acidity component, and named something else entirely like “Mandheling Grade 1” which is unfortunate in that it doesn’t give the producers from this area credit where credit is due. Mandheling may be more in demand due to its familiar appellation, and that does help sell the coffee. But if we have the ability and the knowledge to provide more specificity, why not do it? The Crown jewel is a perfect place to highlight this region and its delicious produce.
This coffee is, to my eyes and tastebuds, the same quality coffee I experienced in the region when I visited in 2014. As importers, we are well aware of the fact that coffee sometimes does not arrive in the same quality it is offered, but this coffee came in perhaps even better than we remembered! If you want a taste of what Southeastern Lake Toba and the Lintong Nihuta region has to offer, this is a great opportunity.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This remarkable tasting coffee is accompanied by picture perfect green coffee metrics. A tight and slightly larger than average 16-18 screen size is paired here with low water activity and moderate moisture content, and a very high density. Wet hulled coffees don’t often arrive in this pristine condition.
Catimor (Caturra crossed with the Timor Hybrid) type plants are widely grown in Indonesia and take many forms. These hybrids are well regarded for hearty disease resistance and high yields. Included in this lot is a particular Catimor, popular in Sumatra, called Sigarar Utang. It maintains the dwarf morphology of the Caturra parent and is very productive (earning it a “super” nickname) with the distinction of harvesting in its second year and having higher than average quality for an interogressed cultivar. “Ateng” was the stage name of a well-loved and short-of-stature Indonesian comedian, and the name was adopted for the cultivar, sometimes accompanied by “Jaluk” (the name of the village where it was first introduced in the late 1980s). The “Sigarar Utang” moniker is a phrase that, in local dialect, indicates how quickly the farmer may repay their debt based on the early maturation and high yield of the plant.
Ikawa Analysis by Chris Kornman
We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor, and were recalibrated in September 2019.
Another Sumatra Crown Jewel? Yep. Take it from Royal CEO and Sumatran coffee appreciator Max Nicholas-Fulmer: “I am actually going to go out on a limb and say that the first half of 2020, in face of all else wrong with it, has been the best (and most diverse) Sumatra season since I’ve been at Royal.”
If you haven’t already tapped into the Kerincis or the Kayu Aro we released recently, well, they’re all super delightful. This Lintong, though, really flew in under the radar. It’s a cool example of the “other” type of Crown Jewel we like to highlight – the coffees that to us as importers and roasters can seem like “happy accidents,” but are in fact the results of the same kinds of care and attention to detail along every step of the way. It’s just that someone else — our export partners, their QC departments, and in particular Gokma Hutasoit (who assembled this lot from a number of smallholder producers in the Lake Toba area) — did all the “discovery” work.
As far as sample roasting goes, this lovely green coffee also makes a delightful brown one. Its tight green metrics made it a poor fit for the low & slow roast (red) below… blunting its edges a bit, making it a little under-sweet and simple. Some pleasant aloe and pear notes offered hope for brighter roasts…
The shortest roast (yellow) was also a little underwhelming, with its late first crack and short development time it really emphasized the herbal, grassy notes. If that’s your thing, feel free to roast hot and fast but for me, I found the lack of balance and scattershot flavor profile a bit distracting.
It was the middle of the road roast (blue) which seemed to produce the best results, the Goldilocks if you will, between too fast and too short, too hot and too cold. At its “just right” profile, this coffee is really impressive with a lot of depth and complexity. Apricot, Pineapple, Marmalade, Butterscotch and Thistle honey all emerge in harmony from the cup. That fudgy body and sagey finish remind you it’s a Sumatran coffee, still completely distinctive. This is a cup worth savoring.
Based on these three roasts my suggestion would be to charge somewhat hot and drive the moisture off early in the roast, and then hang back during the color change, allowing a little room to breathe. By the time you hit first crack you should be able to coast gently and be sure to provide ample caramelization to avoid overly herbal flavors. Otherwise, you should be home free. Enjoy!
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown 7m SR Low AF
Roast 3: Crown Standard SR 1.0
Roast Analysis by Candice Madison
My dad loves a cup of Sumatran coffee, which is kind of a big deal, as he and I only found out about this fact four or so years ago. For 50 years, my dad has been drinking instant coffee – and loving it, I might add! And what does he love about it? ‘All the flavors!’
From the recent line up of Kerincis, or the Kayu Aro we have featured in the last few Crown Jewel offerings, I can’t think of one that has not just been up to par. All have been well above standards in quality and taste, and have delighted the entire team at Royal. The flavors have been distinct, clear, and uniquely Sumatran, much like this offering collected from producers in the region of Lake Toba by Gokma Hutasoit.
This dense coffee has impeccable green analysis metrics; tight screen size distribution, relatively low moisture levels, and a low water activity reading. I am used to wet hulled coffees being softer and more willing to absorb heat, so I dropped the 400 gram batch in at 360F with a minimum gas level of 2 on the Probatino. I left it there until after the turning point. Raising the gas to 3 (about 90%), I found the coffee to be roasting exactly as predicted, and it climbed up the roast curve steadily. About a minute after the color change, I came off the gas slightly, turning the dial down to 2.5.
Expecting a dampening of heat in the drum by moisture release at first crack, I turned the gas down to 2, as the sparse, but loud first crack began to roll. The coffee cracks for a while, and in my wonderment at listening to it, I was a few, precious seconds late in turning the gas back up. Because of this, I over corrected and turned the gas back up to 90% (3 on the dial), which sped up the end of the roast by around 15 seconds. Next time, less wonderment, more work!
I cupped the results the next morning and was greeted by a gorgeous sage/herbal note underlined by a sweet brown sugar smell – before water had even been poured on the grounds. In the cup was the pleasing bitterness of cocoa nibs, offset by the sweetness of camphorous honey and dried apricots. Notes of graham cracker and vanilla completed the complex sweetness. Herbaceous flavors and the soft acidity of underipe bananas were overlaid by gentle lemon and lime citrus notes. The body was heavy and round and thoroughly comforting. I sat on my stoop in the California sunshine and raised my cup to my Dad, all the way in London. Coffee is people, family and friends, connections and camaraderie. Here’s hoping we share a mug soon.
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.
I usually enjoy approaching Sumatran coffees with high heat right off the bat due to their generally higher moisture content, but this was a special case, and the Behmor only allows so much heat application at the beginning of the roast. I did want to bring out the nuance in this atypical Lintong coffee and see what sorts of flavors I could pull out rather than the usual ‘chocolate, peat moss, cedar’ that one would expect.
Roasting 225g at 100% power and with high drum speed, I kept the heat on for a good long time. Sumatran coffees very often take longer in the roaster, so I was prepared. In order to really cruise into first crack slow and steady, I reduced heat application to 75% with the P4 button at 10:15. I heard some puffs that definitely didn’t sound like first crack around 11:00, and I knew that crack was swiftly approaching. It did occur at 11:15, and I opened the door for 30 seconds to abate some smoke at heat at that point. Ending the roast at a generous 12:35, I knew that I would get some deep sweetness, but also that I’d retain some of the more interesting facets of this coffee.
And that I did. There was the typical deep sweetness you’d expect of a high caliber Sumatran coffee, but none of the dry herbal notes associated with the ‘Lintong’ profile. While this coffee certainly isn’t as heavy and fruity as a Gayo coffee, it did have some thick smoothie-like fruit in the cup.
Staunch third wavers and fans of the classic Sumatran profile will both enjoy this coffee for its complexity and sweetness. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m certain that different roast profiles are going to give you dramatically different flavors. Try this coffee on if you’re prone to experimentation, or if you’re fine with life just how it is. You won’t be disappointed.
Brew Analysis by Evan Gilman
Beyond being idiosyncratic entrants to the world of specialty coffee, Sumatran coffees like this Lintong are an adventure to brew. The result of coffees being sorted at origin to fit particular flavor profiles is that you can never be sure that a coffee with the same name will brew the same way. This is only the case with this atypical Lintong, because it is actually from Lintong.
I approached this coffee with no prejudice, however, and brewed using my usual benchmark of a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water, a grind setting of 22 on the Baratza Virtuoso, and 150g pulse pours, all on a Chemex. After 4:45 of brew time, this coffee was thick, heavy, and incredibly soluble. My extraction percentage for the first brew was 19.74 with little effort. The cup was full of thick molasses sweetness, and had a dark chocolate finish – pretty typical for a Sumatra, so I knew there was more below the surface!
I decided to grind a little finer for a quicker brew, a little less dissolved solids, and perhaps a bit more nuance. At 24 on the Virtuoso, I was still met by the sticky molasses, but now had some sweet plum fruitiness, and an aftertaste like a real ripe banana. Have you ever had a banana fresh off the bunch? Once we can travel again, I can’t recommend the experience enough. It’s a thick sweetness almost like custard or pudding. I wish I could just offer you one now. But instead, just try this coffee.
The real coup de grâce was the bypass brew, though. I nearly always recommend this for Sumatran coffees. Grind finer (in this case, 20 on the Virtuoso), then stop the brew just short of your 1:16 ratio. I brewed to an original strength of 1:13.5, then added 100g of water to bring it up to a 1:16 ratio. The retained water in the grounds will remain the same regardless, so adding this water directly to the brewed coffee simply bypasses the grounds. Big automatic brewers have been doing this for decades, and they’ve done their research – it tastes good!
Especially so in this case. This opened up the coffee an incredible amount! Clean and smooth, I got bright plum, cantaloupe, and chocolate candy flavors, rather than the pleasantly bitter dark chocolate flavor I got from my previous brews. My TDS was at a whopping 1.48 for a 20.73% extraction.
Try bypass brew with this coffee if you want to skip the (in my humble opinion) pleasant bitterness. This makes me think that I’d also enjoy this coffee as an americano – another anathema to the coffee purist. But it is what it is – if you enjoy your coffee, make this one your own way. You’re going to enjoy your day after a cup of this coffee!