About a week ago, trader Amanda Amato hosted a cupping at The Crown to showcase a number of the team’s favorite coffees from April. This spectacular Sumatra absolutely surprised us with its perky acidity and over-the top complexity of flavor. Plenty of sage-like herbal notes remain here to remind you of classic Indonesian offerings, but this is no ordinary Pacific island coffee. Sun-dried tomato notes pair with zesty citrus flavors creating a unique and unparalleled coffee from our longtime supplier partners, the Junus family.
The coffee is grown as a mix of family-owned farmland and collected local smallholder groups just down the road from Atu Lintang, and processed at a wet mill located in Jagong Jeget, near Bukit Harapan village in Aceh. About 400 farming families contribute their coffee to this project. Their cherries are pulped and fermented for 12 hours at the washing station, then fully washed. Coffees from the Jagong Jeget wet mill recently placed 11th and 12th in Sumatra’s Prestige Cup, an event held by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence as a precursor to the Cup of Excellence.
The coffees here are then selected, milled, and exported by the Jagong dry mill. Jagong is operated by Irham Junus, and his children Ina and Andi, who have maintained a close relationship with Royal over the years. Their strict adherence to ripe cherry collection is one excellent example of their attention to detail and rigor in quality selection. This particular coffee is both part of the Red Cherry project – in which Royal pays a premium for optimal coffee cherry selection – and is “triple picked,” a designation reserved for the highest grade of handsorted coffees.
The greater region of Aceh, Sumatra’s northernmost province, is the source of what were once called “Mandheling” coffees, though that term is used more as a marketing idea than a true region when applied to coffee at present. Aceh is sometimes referred to as Gayo or Gayoland, a nod to the local Gayonese ethnic majority. Coffees from this region, like this Crown Jewel, are frequently cultivated by refugees of regional conflicts and earthquake survivors, clinging to a traditional livelihood that involves preparing coffee using Sumatra’s all-too-famous wet hulling process, sometimes called semi-washed (not to be confused with semi-washed coffees from the Americas). Known locally as “Giling Basah”, 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. This method leaves its mark on the distinctive jade-like color of Sumatran coffees, as well as their funky, earthy flavors, unmatched elsewhere on the globe.
We are thrilled to announce that we’ve secured certification for our Crown Jewel program, and that this Organic Sumatra, along with an Organic Uganda, will be the first to join the menu as fully certified 10kg Organic Crown Jewels.
When it comes to coffee from Indonesia, most of the rules get bent a little for physical grading. This coffee is a rare exception to the frequently high moisture and water activity samples we often see, landing at slightly elevated but quite stable 11.7% moisture and a moderately high but still reasonable 0.600 water activity. Now that it’s landed and warehoused in Oakland, most of the risk of fading in transit has passed, and this coffee should remain flavorful so long as moderately cool and dry storage conditions are maintained. It has a pretty low density and fairly large and widespread screen size. You’ll likely find this to behave uniquely in the roaster, so keep an eye on Candice and Evan’s notes below – small changes in profile may well have dramatic results in the cup.
Ina Junus recently updated us with the local varieties, which she’s listed as “Tim-tim” and “Ateng.” Tim-tim is the local name for the Timor Hybrid, a naturally occurring arabica-robusta cross that sprung up spontaneously in the early part of the 20th century on the island of Timor, after robusta was introduced to combat a devastating leaf rust outbreak. “Ateng” is one of many names for a local Catimor hybrid (Timor Hybrid x Caturra), which is highly popular as it maintains the dwarf morphology of the Caturra 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). I’ve also seen the cultivar referred to as “Sigarar Utang,” a phrase that, in local dialect, indicates how quickly the farmer may repay their debt based on the early maturation and high yield.
It’s always a pleasure to cup coffees from Indonesia and Sumatra is one of my favourite origins. There is the historic assumption that you would be looking at earthy, chocolatey flavor profile with low acidity. However, that assumption has been challenged for a few years, especially when you factor in the far superior and quality driven processing that is being seen more and more from producers from this origin.
I have always treated coffees from Sumatra, and the surrounding Indonesian origins with a more gentle approach when roasting. This is due to the fact that coffees from that region tend to have a significantly higher water content and activity than usually seen. However, Chris’s specs were surprisingly close to ‘the norm’ regarding his green coffee analysis. With this in mind, I decided to approach this coffee in the way that I would usually, and then flip that approach on its head and see what would happen.
I began the first roast with a slightly higher charge temperature of 373F, but a moderately low gas application of 2.5. I turned the gas up just before coloring occured, to ensure that the non-enzymatic browning reactions and beginning of caramelization proceeded at a steady pace. I left the machine to do its work, only turning the gas back down to 2.5 just before 1st crack. The crack, was surprising – subtle and sparse, so listen closely! Taking it into a minute into post crack development, I dropped the roast at 403F. The result in the cup was a delicious melange of fruit notes; black cherry, dried cranberry, apple, mango, pineapple and fresh tomato. These were accompanied by a brown sugar sweetness, with lots of milk chocolate notes and a clean and clear note of peat moss! The syrupy smooth body, coupled with a soft grapefruit acidity elevated the whole experience. I wanted to filter the cupping bowl and drink the lot!
The second roast saw an inversion of heat application of the first roast. Because I wanted to see how the coffee reacted to the (usually) highest heat setting I use on our roaster, I dropped the coffee into the roaster at 363F and let it stay at that setting until just after Stage 2 began. I dropped the gas just half a notch and didn’t need to make any further changes for the rest of the roast. The coffee cracked at 393F, and I allowed it a little extra development time (by 11 seconds). The resultant coffee had many of the same flavors and attributes as before, including the delicious smooth, syrupy body and sweetness. The latter was now expressed in flavors such as toffee, butterscotch and molasses syrup. The acidity was reminiscent of a soft chardonnay and the notes of peat moss became deep, rich oak. The fruits took on a more dried, sticky sweet quality and the mango became lucuma! A stunning example of how versatile Sumatran coffees are. The top-notch quality of the agronomy and processing and the constant care and attention from the Atu Lintang smallholders and the Jagong Jeget wet mill as well as the Jeget dry mill are clearly evident and have produced a clean, sweet, full-bodied and abundantly flavored coffee that will elevate your menu, however you choose to roast or brew it.
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.
While I’m not a stark traditionalist as far as Sumatran coffees are concerned, I do appreciate a well-developed profile for Sumatran coffees. This coffee really rang true for me as a full immersion or filter drip option. I particularly enjoy bypass brewing with wet-hulled coffees, and this Crown Jewel would be a prime target for that brew method.
I found that this coffee had a very soft crack, so you’ll need to pay close attention when roasting this in the Behmor. Then again, generous development really brought out the sweetness I was looking for in this coffee. First crack occurred around 10:50, and I opened the door to abate smoke at 11:15 and 11:45 for 10 seconds each time. I did not reduce heat, instead opting to keep it at the full 100% power (P5). After 1:15 of post-crack development, I stopped the roast at 12:05. This wasn’t my darkest roast, but it was one of my most even roasts in terms of ColorTrack numbers, with less than a 5 point spread between whole bean and ground numbers.
Very traditional pipe tobacco and vanilla notes came through on this roast, noted by consensus. However, not all our notes were earthy ones: peach, passionfruit, and banana were all represented. This coffee is as complex and interesting as they come. If you want to experience a Sumatran coffee with verve, this is a great one to consider. Keep your tastebuds dancing!
For the brew analysis of this delicious coffee from Sumatra, I had a feeling that the coffee could benefit from a small bypass to help highlight its notable acidity and minimize some of the earthier notes that are the calling card of Sumatran coffees. With that in mind, as well as our experiences brewing a honey-processed coffee from Sumatra on the brew bar earlier this year, I opted for the immersion/infusion hybrid brewer, the Clever Dripper.
After a quick re-read of Sandra’s earlier blog post on brewing with a bypass, I brewed up the first brew, using a 20% bypass to dilute the brew to a (hopefully) light, pleasant 1.10 TDS. The resulting brew was a little lighter than we had hoped for, and a little dry on the finish, but we could definitely taste the acidity we love in this coffee with notes of melon and stone fruit. I was confident a few small tweaks could really make this coffee pop.
For the second brew, I used slightly less brew water, and a slightly higher bypass percentage; both changes that I hoped would help mitigate the overextraction and really let this coffee’s acidity and sweetness shine through. This cup was delicious! We tasted lots of complex acidity in the form of apricot, plum, pear, orange, and peach, plus the brew boasted tons of sweetness – think honey, nougat, almond, and maple syrup – with a delightfully round and creamy body. This coffee is a fantastic new offering from Indonesia that might change the way you think about Sumatran coffees!