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Origin Stories: Episode 1

Sumatran coffee farmers picking coffee

Sumatra Coffee Beans

Here at Calm Coffee Company, we roast beans from a number of origins because each comes with their own unique flavour. Many of you, like us, may not be up to scratch on our knowledge of Sumatra. So, we figured it may be helpful to provide a bit of background to this fruity, cocoa and syrup-like tasting bean! Anyone with the opportunity to visit one of the coffee farms should seize this straight away! My research has certainly described the experience to be like no other.

About Sumatra:

Sumatra is one of the largest islands in the world and forms part of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia. It consists of active volcanoes, as well as plains and forests, however has suffered largely due to deforestation. It is suggested that Sumatra has lost up to 50% of its tropical rainforest. Many species have become critically endangered as a result of the impact of these changes. Indonesia is considered to be the third-largest coffee producer in the world! Originally exporting the coffee from the island of Java. This identifies where this term came from that is now often associated with a cup of coffee!

The Taste of Sumatra:

The tropical climate of Sumatra provides the perfect conditions for growing Arabica beans, helped by the fertile volcanic soil that supports the beans’ growth. Sumatra coffee has an acquired taste in some respects, not only because of the location, but the processing method is of significant importance when developing the flavour of the beans. Sumatra beans are processed by wet hulling (giling basah if we are speaking in a native language to Sumatra). This is often referred to as dry or natural processing.

Generally, growing the beans in the shade also forms part of this method which is favoured for its ability to maintain more moisture within the bean, producing a contrast of 50% moisture content compared to around 11% of other countries’ beans.

The dampness that is created as a result of the tropical climate means that the coffee farmers have very few hours of the day to dry the beans. It is this method that gives the beans their unique flavour as described.

As I have already mentioned, ‘fruity’ is regularly used to describe Sumatra beans, however, the full flavour profile is often identified as; low acidity; full body; preferably dark roasted for its sweetness; and its aroma to be ‘herby and woodland-y’.

Coffee farmer picking fruit

More than one bean…:

Sumatra sources three main varieties of beans: Mandheling – grown in the north and often considered to be the favoured bean; Lintong – grown on a high plateau overlooking Lake Toba, recognised to balance its richness with a clean aftertaste; and thirdly, Gayo – grown in the northern Aceh region and provides the most intense flavour of each variety of bean. There is quite a difference in each of these beans, so let’s take a look at a couple of them in a little more detail.

Drying Sumatra Coffee Beans

Sumatra Mandheling coffee beans

Mandheling beans are processed by semi-washing and sun-drying. This creates an aroma of cocoa and brown spice and finishes with a thick and syrupy aftertaste. These beans are often medium roasted, following the placement of an order. This ensures they arrive with the customer at their optimum freshness.

Sumatra Mandheling Reserve coffee beans

To confuse matters, there is also the Sumatra Mandheling Reserve variety that is very similar, however they are dark roasted, rather than the above medium roasted. With the darker roast comes the milder acidity levels and greater intensity to the cocoa and fruity flavours of the Mandheling bean. These beans are certified as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic and Shade Grown.

Sumatra Gayo coffee beans

Gayo beans provides a warming and spicy flavour with a lighter syrupy aftertaste and softer finish to the Mandheling beans. These beans are described as sweet and clean, and highly valued around the world with certifications of Organic, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance. Similarly to the Mandheling bean, these beans are medium roasted after orders are placed. Finally, we reach the

Sumatra Gayo Peaberry coffee beans

Sumatra Gayo Peaberry, which is considered to be the highest quality Gayo bean. They are grown in highlands up to 6,000 feet high! Therefore, they are referred to as High Grown Coffee. This results in their flavours being somewhat different with caramel notes, ranging to cardamom and clove aromas. These beans remain a low acidity and are Organic and Fair Trade certified.

wet hulling coffee beans

How do you brew the perfect coffee with Sumatra coffee beans?

Sumatra coffee is best suited to an espresso, however, individuals creating this need to be careful. It is definitely best to do some research first to ensure you get the most of the flavour of the bean. Not everyone is going to have access to an espresso machine, but don’t fear, you can still enjoy the full and complex flavour of this bean via other methods.

An aeropress or stovetop espresso maker offer a much cheaper alternative to the espresso machine, however do require some practice and can be somewhat fiddly in the process.

For summer, the Sumatra bean is also well suited to a cold brew, again the instructions for this can easily be found with a little research. This drink provides an even lower acidity profile which results in a brilliantly smooth cup of coffee. This also provides greater health benefits, notably due to its antioxidants.

Espresso Machine

Time to get brewing…

So, you are now equipped with lots of knowledge on Sumatran coffee, and how to best brew it! To put your learning to the test, why not try brewing some for yourself? Our Sumatra coffee is ground to suit any brewing method, simply choose the option that best fits your brewing equipment.

If the syrup-like notes in Sumatran coffee isn’t quite enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, we have 3 delicious zero calorie and zero sugar CBD infused coffee syrups to choose from!

Still uncertain on how to best brew your coffee? Download our FREE coffee brewing guide and follow the easy step-by-step instructions.

If you enjoyed learning about where our Sumatra coffee comes from, keep an eye out for the next release of our Origin Stories!