Although Indonesia is not particularly high on the radar when it comes to top-tasting coffee, the altitudinous regions of Indonesia’s largest (unshared) island bear some true gems in the form of Sumatran specialty coffee.
A Brief History
Coffee, in the form of Arabica seedlings, was first introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch at the very backend of the 17th century. In 1711, the Dutch East India Company transported the country’s first export of coffee from Java to Europe. Quantities exported soon increased to 60 tonnes per annum.
The trading of coffee proved to be lucrative for the Dutch, and the number and size of coffee plantations grew greatly by the mid-1800s.
Sumatran coffee was initially produced in the uplands close to Lake Toba, and then expanded to include the Gayo region where, today, some notable specialty coffee is grown.
In 1876, however, the tables turned due to the spread of coffee rust disease across the country, which wiped out the majority of plantations. The less susceptible Rustica variety of coffee largely replaced the Arabica plants at this time, and still do to this day.
Smallholders and cooperatives with less than 1 hectare of land produce the vast majority of Indonesia’s coffee nowadays. Despite the threat of leaf rust disease, a few Arabica plantations do still exist.
Sumatran Gayo Co-op Organic Specialty Coffee
Our coffee of the month this April is the Sumatran Gayo Co-op Organic. This is a medium-roasted grade 1 bean.
Like the majority of Arabica cherry harvested in Indonesia, it is processed using a method called Giling Basah, otherwise known in the industry as wet hulling. This method is specific to Indonesia, where it is primarily used in Sulawesi and Sumatra. The method is advantageous in such a wet and humid climate.
Wet hulling involves pulping the coffee cherries on the farms where it is grown and then fermenting the pulp with the beans overnight. The next day, clean water is used to wash away the pulp debris. The beans are then sun-dried for two days. The next step is the sending of the beans to a cooperative-owned drying plant where the beans are passed through a machine known as a wet-huller in order to remove the parchment (the thin, papery outer layer that coats the beans) before drying further.
Sumatran Gayo Co-op Organic Coffee – Details
Region: Aceh Province
Altitude: grown at 1200 to 1600 metres above sea level
Variety: Ateng, Gayo 1, Timtim
Aroma: soy sauce
Flavour: this Sumatran specialty coffee has a Clementine flavour with a rhubarb aftertaste.
To get John Watt’s coffee of the month delivered directly to your door each and every month, join the John Watt coffee club. Currently on special offer, if you sign up for a year you will get 12 months for the price of 10!
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Bright Java. (n.d.). The Wet Hulled Process. Bright Java Indonesian Coffee. https://www.brightjava.com/learn/wet-hulled-process-in-indonesia
Sucafina Specialty. (2013, October 30). About Indonesia. https://sucafina.com/na/news/about-indonesia
Wee, R. Y. (2019, June 14). Biggest Islands In Indonesia. WorldAtlas. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/biggest-islands-in-indonesia.html