Roaster's Tasting Notes
Chocolate Liqueur, Maple Syrup, Concord Grape, Winey
Sumatra. Mandheling. Java. These are very evocative names for coffee lovers, but for many specialty coffee drinkers in the recent past, the experience in the cup may not have matched the romance associated with this origin. The reasons for this are twofold - lack of investment at the farm level and lack of processing know-how at the station level coupled with reliance on the (in)famous local method of processing cherry - the Giling Basah, or Semi-Washed/Wet-Hulled method - unique to Indonesia - and designed to get revenue into the hands of farmers as quickly as possible. Briefly, this method involves de-pulping cherry, followed by a brief sun-drying process to bring moisture content down to anywhere between 25% and 50%. The parchment is then hulled off at the dry mill, with naked beans allowed to dry down further (typically to around 13%) to avoid rotting. This second drying gives rise to the deep blue-green colour of giling basah coffees. In the past, this would have been experienced as heavy cups with earthy, tobacco, woody, and herbal flavours, muted acidity and little excitement - typically used in the blends of coffee chains all over South-east Asia. But things have been changing over the last few years with more direct investment at local level as well as a new generation of home-grown coffee enthusiasts proudly showcasing the potential of their own origin to the uninitiated.
Indonesia is a fascinating country for its diversity in food, religion, landscape, language, and of course coffee. With more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is one of the most diverse coffee origins in terms of geographical and cultural diversity. Coffee has been at the center of trade ever since the Dutch planted the first seeds in the late 1600s. Every region has developed its own style of production and has its own set of coffee varieties. The most well known regions for specialty coffee are North Sumatra, South-Sulawesi, West-Java, Flores and East-Timor.
But there was burning curiosity on the part of many green coffee buyers and roasters to truly experience what this origin was capable of producing when done right, and over the last 5 years or so, investment put into place by a number of parties - in this specific example, by Rikolto of Belgium, has begun to bear (as it were) fruit and resulted in a leap in quality from this cooperative. We were first alerted to the possibilities of Indonesia within a specialty context when we were given some green samples from a coop in West Java about 3 years ago. A natural lot amongst these really caused us to sit up and pay attention - a burst of tropical fruit sitting in great balance with sweet and earthy tones was most unexpected and certainly indicative of great potential waiting to be unleashed. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete a deal on that occasion, but our appetite was whetted. Since then we have cupped and evaluated many Indonesian lots through different sources, including Cup of Excellence lots and others, waiting for something special to grab us again, and at a price that would make sense for us and our customers, but despite tasting some noteworthy lots, nothing really materialised. Until now.
This Natural lot was harvested and processed at an altitude of 1550-1700 masl at the foot of Mount Kerinci. Cherry is rigorously sorted before being delivered to dry on raised beds. The beds are located under domes so as to protect the coffee from rain and harsh sunlight, and the coffee is spread out in very thin layers. Here, the coffee is sorted again and turned regularly to ensure even drying. When dry, the coffee is milled and sorted by hand.
The Barokah coop pays its member farmers directly when they bring cherry to the washing station. In addition, it also provides these farmers with agricultural training, technical support, seedlings, tree planting for shade, and fertilizers. The coop also pays dividends at the end of the season, effectively sharing profits with its member farmers. As of 2019, contributing farmers received 9,500 rupiahs Farmgate Price per kg of cherry (around 50p per kg of cherry). 32Cup then paid 350 usc/lb FOB to the exporter (around £6.20 per kg of green). The exporter takes a very small portion of this so the money flowing back to the Barokah coop and the region is considerably high. 32Cup also prefinances them, meaning paying money for coffee months beforehand so the coop is in a comfortable position to pay its farmers upon delivery of cherry. And finally, we at Amoret loved this coffee so much that we paid 32Cup £8.80 per kg of green.
So here we have it - a transparently traded lot, with full details of the history, people, and provenance associated with it; transforming farmers' lives by being properly rewarded for the production of excellent coffee sustainably.
In the cup, this displays a remarkable style, with rich, dark chocolate and explosive concord grape winey acidity in great balance, framed by syrupy sweetness throughout and classic Asian “earthy” tones on the cool, all the while displaying a very clean cup with no more than a medium body. We have developed this green for both espresso and filter, highlighting the chocolate in the espresso and purple grape and tropical fruit in the filter. Do not be alarmed by the darker than expected shade of roasted beans for both profiles - coffees from Asia often need this style of profiling to bring the best out of their inherent flavours, but you will only detect as much roast as is needed and also enjoy ease of brewing. Specialty from Sumatra is here, and a first for Amoret.
**This lot was sourced by Mr Bavo Vandenbroecke of 32Cup Specialty Coffee Merchants - now part of Sucafina - notes below on the unusual Arabica varietals involved are from him**
Sigarar Utang is a dwarf tree. It is a natural cross between Bourbon/Typica and Tim Tim, or Timor Hybrid, created in Aceh Tengah. Because of its resistance and high yield its usage grew in popularity in the 80s and 90's. It actually means 'to repay debt sooner' in the local language.
Andung Sari (or Andong Sari) is a crossbreed of Caturra, Timor hybrid and Colombia developed by the Indonesian Coffee and Cacao Research Institute. It is mostly present in Java but now also more and more in North Sumatra.