Micro lot series
WATERMELON, CHERRY LIQUEUR, VANILLA
ATENG, BOR BOR, CATIMOR, TIMOR
Obvious winey and tart acidity. Mild sugary sweetness. Noticeable vanilla, cooked
berry, cocoa, and clove flavors
Microlots from Sumatra are most commonly traceable to the mill level, but
occasionally traceable to the producer. Because of the generally small size of farms
in Sumatra, most produers' coffee is blended together with that of other
smallholders. Microlot coffees not only have more traceability than those blended
lots, but also achieve the highest quality and are rewarded with the highest prices.
Natural coffees are typically processed the day they are harvested, and are first sorted for ripeness and quality before being rinsed clean of dirt. In many places this initial sorting happens via a float tank: Damaged and defective cherries will float to the top to be removed, while high-quality coffee will sink to the bottom to be cleaned and dried. After sorting, cherries are spread on raised drying beds, table, tarps, or patios, where they will be rotated constantly throughout the course of drying. Drying can take an average of 30–40 days, depending on the weather.
Region: Aceh, in northern Sumatra, is an incredible region for coffee production. The average farm is one hectare, 80% of producers within northern Sumatra are women, and 95% of producers are smallholders. The region is diverse, geographically speaking. It is surrounded by beaches with a swampy inland, and the Barisan Mountains make up the inner two-thirds of the area. Coffee is grown on this volcanic mountain amongst the rainforest. One of the notable features of this area is Lake Taboa, the largest volcanic lake in the world.
Sumatran coffees have long been distinct for their earthy, savory, somewhat vegetal or herbaceous characteristics, in part
contributed by the climate and the mix of varieties grown, but also due to a specific post-harvest processing style called Wet-Hulling, or locally known as Giling Basah, which imparts much of the unique qualities these coffees have.Before the 1970s,
coffees in Sumatra were processed in the two most commonly found methods worldwide: washed and natural. In the 1970s, Japanese interest in Sumatran coffees led to the introduction of the Wet-Hulled process, a unique style of handling and drying that is largely responsible for Sumatran coffees’ unmistakable flavor characteristics, but also their normally greenish-blue
hue. In Sumatra, coffee farmers will typically harvest their coffee cherry and depulp them by hand at their farm or home. The coffee then dries for a very short time and is brought either to a coffee marketplace or to a “collector,” or collection point, where
the beans are purchased at anywhere from 30–50% moisture, with their mucilage still partially intact. The coffee is then combined and hulled (has its parchment removed) while it is still in this high-moisture state. The coffee is then dried to the more commonly globally accepted 11–13% moisture in order to prepare for export.While there is some experimentation currently being done with large-scale Washed coffee for export, most of the Washed coffee produced is for local consumption. The Wet-Hulled process was developed specifically to speed up drying and efficiency in a climate that sees heavy rain and clouds most of the year. Removing the parchment layer allows the coffee to dry much faster on patios or tarps even in these conditions.
Sumatra is a fascinating origin, unique even among its fellow Indonesian coffee-growing islands and areas. The vast diversity that we have found there is one of the reasons that we are always excited to go back and face cupping after cupping of
Sumatran coffee in search of something special. Through this rigorous process, we have discovered producers and developed long-term partnerships with both individual farmers/collectors and cooperatives of various smallholders. We are also able to work with these partners to request and pay for more selective picking and processing, and we have undertaken several experiments with special-prep Wet-Hulling, to varying degrees of success.We continue to pursue more and more special
microlots and alternative processing methods, and we feel that there is a lot of untapped potential in this powerhouse producing region. Washed coffees in particular have grabbed our attention and our palates, as has the increase in democratically organized associations of women coffee producers. Cafe Imports will continue to be on the ground in Sumatra, as senior green-coffee buyer Piero Cristiani nurtures the partnerships he has worked to establish there, and he continues to
seek the best and brightest (and cleanest cups) that Sumatra has to offer.