Sumatra Mandheling (Decaf)
Cup Characteristics: Herbal and earth-toned with a pleasant full-body feel and smooth finish.
Sumatra is the western-most island in Indonesia and the largest producer of coffee in this nation. Arabica coffee from North Sumatra generally uses the trade name Mandheling, a derivation of the name of the Mandailing people from the Tapanuli region of Sumatra. A WWII Japanese military man stationed in Sumatra is said to have asked a local Sumatran where his coffee originated, but the Sumatran man mistakenly thought he was being asked about his ethnicity and replied "Mandheling". Today over 90% of the coffee production occurs on smallholder farms averaging one hectare or less where the coffee is handpicked and initial processing takes place using the unique wet hulling (Giling Basah – the literal translation is “wet grinding”) process.
The pulp is
removed at the farm, but the parchment and silver skin are left on. The coffee is then dried in stages before the remaining layers are removed. The beans must be brought down to the sunnier coastal city of Medan, hours away, to complete the drying. Even then the coffees are rarely dried sufficiently and therefore continue to be subject to instability and mold. The earth tones that so many aficionados marvel over are typically the result of the presence of defective beans, due to insect or fungal damage, and from primitive processing and sorting, dramatically compounded by excessively humid conditions.
Despite all the problems mentioned above, the rare fine Sumatran can be worth the wait. Sumatrans have a sultry quality unlike any other coffee. The blending of coffees from various smallholder producers combined with the wet hulling processing technique used in Sumatra are credited with creating the complex and distinguishing characteristics this coffee is best known for; at the green bean stage the coffee has a distinct bluish-green color and, in the cup, a smooth, intense body with low acidity and pleasing aroma of caramel with earthy undertones.