Sumatra Coffee is one of the best known Indonesian coffees, and can be found in many popular coffee brands these days, including Starbucks, Kirkland, and many other premium and international brands.
Drinking a cup of Sumatran Coffee is one of the best coffee experiences available, as any true coffee lover already knows. Sumatran coffee beans typically produce a heavy, complex, smooth coffee that is regarded as some of the tastiest on the market.
From Bean to Cup
From the moment it hits your tongue, you can taste the warm, smooth, rich flavor of the Sumatran bean. Each blend is a little different, giving you a literal taste of the region where the beans were grown and processed.
The flavors can range from a deep, sensual coffee flavor to a light and smooth fruit infused taste. Sumatra Coffee is a perennial favorite among discerning coffee lovers, but you may wonder where the coffee gets it’s distinctive flavor.
What is Sumatran Coffee?
Sumatran coffee is a broad term that refers to a large number of different coffees that are grown in the Sumatra region of Indonesia. The region covers hundreds of miles, from low coastal areas to steeply rising mountain areas.
And this is what they grow,… I’ve included a sample of the popular varieties that you can purchase. If you want to choose other varieties of Sumatran, click on the pictures and do your own search.
Magnum Sumatra Mandheling Coffee
Farmers throughout the region grow the beans, with each change in climate contributing its own twist to the flavor of the coffees. But the Lintong and Mandheling areas produce the majority of Sumatra coffee.
If you want to read the full story about the Sumatra coffee farmers, check out the blog theDigitalTrekker for the page (new window). It’s well worth watching the slides! I used to embed that photoshow, but it’s not working… so now you have to visit the photographer’s site.
Different Processing: Different Flavors
Differences in how the beans are processed lead to changes in the flavor of the final cup of coffee. There are two primary methods used in Sumatra coffee.
Dry Processing: Farmers typically pick the beans, remove the skins and ferment them overnight in woven plastic bags to loosen the pulp. The next morning they are washed by hand and laid out on drying sheets to dry naturally in the sun. Some are dried directly on the ground, which can impart an earthy taste to the final coffee product. This drying process is where the beans acquire the subtle differences often preferred by experienced coffee drinkers.
Wet Processing: Though most beans are dry-processed, a smaller percentage of beans are processed using a “wet-hulled” method, in which the beans are picked, and then dried only partially. This is a newer process that removes the four layers surrounding the bean, and results in a brighter, fruitier coffee.
Beans which are dried completely before having their outer layer removed are the most “pure” version of Sumatran coffee, because the drinker will experience only the flavor of the bean, without the characteristics added when the drying process occurs outside of the hull. But much of the appreciation of coffee lies in the coffee drinkers’ own taste buds.
The Connoisseur’s Take: Aged Green Beans, Gayo Mountain, and Kopi Luak
Connoisseurs often look for aged green coffee beans grown in the western region called Aceh because aging accentuates the spicy, earthy notes of Sumatran coffee.
Gayo Mountain coffee beans are less famous but many coffee lovers prefer them; they are all grown in the shade and very few have been treated with any type of chemical. Small farms in Aceh use the backyard washed method, resulting in coffee whose taste ranges from sweet and rounded to grassy and thin. Some of the coffee is also semi-dried.
Kopi Luak coffee is a Sumatran gourmet treat that is said to be the excreted by a small animal called a luak. Luaks eat coffee fruit, digest the pulp and outside layers then excrete the beans. This type of bean, when roasted, apparently brings about $300 per pound!
The coffee that results is full-bodied, earthy and low-key. People search for and retrieve the beans in the wild animal’s droppings; some even keep luaks for the sole purpose of feeding them coffee fruit and collecting the results.
Select Your Beans Carefully
So if you are buying from a larger coffee store, then you should find the Sumatran beans are of a decent quality. Unfortunately, for smaller stores, you need to pick and choose more carefully; the prices alone won’t dictate the quality of the drink in your cup.
Most drinkers value Sumatran blends for their unique combination of smooth taste and low acidity along with the many subtle differences in flavors. Drinking a cup of quality Sumatran coffee will leave you with the rich flavor lingering in your mouth even after the last drops are gone.
In Your Store
When you look at specialty roasts in your local coffee shop, you will find Sumatran Coffee Beans among the gourmet blends.
The unique qualities of the Sumatran blend have made it a favorite among American specialty coffee drinkers.
When you are ready to try Sumatran Coffee, take a moment to allow the scent of the coffee to surround you.
Try to detect the flavors of the region in the scent- earthy, warm, bittersweet, smooth, chocolaty, fruity? Then, as you take a sip, try to taste those flavors in the coffee.
Sumatran coffee is for those who truly enjoy the flavors that coffee has to offer.