Coffee of the World

What is Sumatra Coffee | The Complete Guide

sumatra coffee plants in mountains

It has been widely accepted that Sumatra coffee has a very distinct and unique flavor. This is why some coffee drinkers have a love-hate relationship with it. Sumatra is located on an island in Indonesia, and it is famous for growing premium coffee plants. It is located on the coffee belt, which comes with ideal conditions for growing coffee.

You will find that Sumatra coffee is distributed to coffee roasters, independent coffee shops, and even chains such as Starbucks. The Starbucks Sumatra Coffee beans are a dark roast and have a very earthy taste, much like other coffee from Sumatra. 

The pacific region of the world grows coffee unlike any other coffees in the world.

What is Sumatra Coffee?

Sumatra Coffee is considered one of the world’s finest specialty coffees. Located in Indonesia, there are three kinds of premium coffee grown which are Mandheling, Ankola, and Lintong.

In this region, Arabica beans are the most common coffee beans that are grown. Sumatra Coffee has a unique earthy tone and is heavy-bodied. It is known to be less acidic compared to other coffee beans. This is mainly due to the harvesting process before the beans are even roasted.

The coffee undergoes a wet-hulling process, also known as giling basah, which removes the part of the beans that are coated with parchment and mucilage. The beans are then fermented in concrete water tanks overnight in order to easily remove the mucilage. After the mucilage is removed, that’s when the coffee beans are then covered in a wet parchment layer and sun-dried for 2-3 days or more.

Where Does Sumatra Coffee Come From?

Sumatra coffee comes from the island of Sumatra, a large island belonging to the Republic of Indonesia. The coffee is mainly grown on the volcanic mountains at high elevations, which are essential for growing coffee.

Sumatra is the second-largest island in Indonesia and is located on the coffee belt. The volcanic landscape and high altitudes make it the perfect location for growing coffee. The coffee is grown at elevations of 2000 to 5000 feet where the temperature, weather, and soil are perfect.

The tropical climate and volcanic soil are what helps to grow some of the world’s most popular coffee.

The ​​Sumatra Mandheling coffee, one of Sumatra’s’ specialty coffees, is grown near a location called Padang on the west side of the island. It is also named after the Mandheling people of the island.

The majority of coffee production in Indonesia is exported to the USA.



How is Sumatra Coffee Harvested

Sumatra coffee is harvested using the wet hulling technique. This involves removing the skin of the coffee cherry, fermenting the beans, and washing off the remaining fruit before leaving it to partially dry. 

Each method of coffee harvesting will alter the taste of the bean, but the taste would also be dependent on the roasting method and technique used.

When going through the wet hulling process, these are the stages that are followed:

  • The coffee is harvested from the plants and separated so the cherries remain.
  • Workers then remove the skins from each individual cherry. This will be done with a machine or manually.
  • The beans are stored in coffee sacks to ferment for one night.
  • The remaining fruit on the coffee beans is then washed off the next morning.
  • The beans are then left to partially dry before being moved to the factory/warehouse to completely dry.
  • Before being exported, the coffee beans are dried out again at the port.

It’s not a simple process and workers face many challenges when harvesting coffee beans in Indonesia, that is aside from the humidity and manual labor. The beans have to be dried so many times due to the moisture in the atmosphere caused by the tropical climate.

The History of Sumatran Coffee

Coffee is claimed to have been first founded in Ethiopia by a goat herder. But not long after Ethiopia Coffee was discovered, the Dutch brought coffee plants to Indonesia, where production quickly expanded. 

Coffee growing and production was first introduced to Indonesia by a Dutch colonist in the late 16th century.  Following this, Indonesia became one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world. Primarily, coffee was grown on other islands and regions where it was easy to export.

Actually, Indonesia is known as the 4th largest coffee producer in the world. Because of the location and favorable climate, Indonesia is one of the countries that offer an ideal place to grow and produce world-class coffee beans. 

What does Sumatra Coffee Taste Like

The most distinct taste of Sumatra coffee is a mix of earthy, spicy, and herbal notes. It’s also not unusual to taste mushrooms, fungus, wood, and moss flavors infused in the coffee beans. This is part of what gives Sumatra coffee an earthy undertone. 

The rich, creamy, and smooth flavor of Sumatran Coffee is due to the wet-hulling process it undergoes. All the earthy notes and the spicy mouthfeel are balanced with low-acidity and full-body. Wet-hulling helps redress the balance of the complex flavors of the beans while enhancing the full-body taste. 

Because of the wet-hulling process, some Sumatran coffee roasters prefer a dark roast just to balance out the flavor-enhancing the richness of the beans. Hence, why the Starbucks Sumatra Espresso Roast is a dark roast.

Is Sumatra Coffee Lower in Acid?

Sumatra Coffee is considered to be lower in acidity due to the wet hulling process when harvesting the coffee. This process removes some acidity of the coffee beans, as well as changing the taste. This doesn’t mean that the coffee will have no acidity, but it wouldn’t be as bad as other coffees harvested with other methods.



3 Types of Sumatra Coffee

Sumatra coffee is known for its three premium gourmet coffees which offer unique flavors and are deemed world-class by a lot of coffee drinkers. 

1. Lington

Lington coffee is known to have a very clean aftertaste. The origin of Lington came from a district named Lingtonnihuta. The district is located in the southwest of the world’s deepest inland water, Lake Toba. 

Because the region of Lingtonnnihuta is located in an elevated plain, this provides the ideal place for Arabica plants to thrive. Aside from the clean aftertaste, Lington coffee provides a dark chocolate taste with a hint of earthy flavor. 

2. Gayo

The next type of Sumatran Coffee is called Gayo. Gayo coffee originated in the Ache, the northernmost region of Sumatra. It provides a cup of smooth and full-body coffee with bright acidity. It also has rich aromatic wood notes, a reminder of the spice and herb flavors 

3. Mandheling

The last type of Sumatra coffee is called Mandheling. It is reputed as the best coffee from Sumatra. The rich soil and tropical climate of Sumatra help develop a distinct taste that gives a hint of licorice and chocolate notes. 

Mandheling is grown in the west-central area of Padang somewhere around 5000 feet above sea level. To further enhance the earthy flavor, Mandheling coffee beans are roasted between medium-dark to dark roast.

Sumatra Coffee Facts

1. Sumatra, one of the Sunda Islands of Western Indonesia, grow their coffee in “Fincas” or mountainside farms.

Indonesian coffees are commonly grown in mountainsides about 2000 meters above sea level, this helps to bring out the unique flavors of Sumatran coffees. 

2. Indonesia is known to be the 4th largest coffee-producing country in the entire world.

Because of the premium gourmet coffee quality and the vast expanse of coffee farm areas, Indonesia is one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world. They export about 65% of coffee all around the globe. 

3. Sumatran Coffee is known to be less acidic compared to other coffees.

Sumatran Coffee is less acidic due to the process the beans undergo, which is called wet-hulling. This process lessens the acidity of the coffee. If you want a herbal note in your coffee, then you should choose a light roast. If you prefer to get that chocolatey and earthy undertone, then choose a medium-dark roast. But if you’d rather taste the rich, sweet, and full-bodied mouthfeel, then a dark roast is great for your palate. 

4. One of the most famous and expensive coffee in the world is an Indonesian coffee.

The world’s most expensive coffee is called Kopi Luwak which is another kind of Sumatran Coffee. Kopi Luwak is actually a cat poop. Yes! You read that right, it is from cat poop, specifically a palm civet cat. What makes it so expensive is that civet cats are known to only eat the best quality of Sumatran green coffee. After the civet cat ingests the coffee beans, it is then fermented and protected by their parchment coat. Kopi Luwak is so expensive that the lowest price for it is about $100. 

5. You can use Sumatra coffee beans in certain meals. 

Did you know that Sumatra coffee beans can be used in certain meals because of their herbal and spicy flavors? It can be used as an additional ingredient to spice rubs or marinades. You can even use it as a baking option. 

The Final Sip

Sumatra products, some exceptional coffee beans that are distributed all over the world. Grown in the rich volcanic mountains and in tropical climates, the conditions are perfect. The coffee cherries are wet-hulled, considered to have less acidity, and have an earthy taste. Ultimately, Sumatra coffee is known around the world for its specialty coffee.

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