For as long as I can remember we have always sold coffee from Indonesia. Coffee is grown on many of the islands but when I first started in the business in the early 1980s we could only choose from a few different types of bean from either Java, Sumatra or Sulawesi and we have featured them all since then at one time or another. Over the years the coffee industry has developed in many countries and now hand in hand with farmers and green coffee merchants we are able to select and support individual farms and cooperatives.
This coffee, Sumatra Hutan, is grown on small holdings spread across four areas of Sumatra in the central Aceh regency. A regency is an administrative region divided into districts. The main district is Bies where 70% of the smallholders are women. They all form a part of the Koperasi Pedagang Kopi Ketiara, led by chairwoman Rahmah Ketiara and spread across 19 villages working to improve the balance in agroforestry. An ongoing project is restoring indigenous trees to the farms to protect the ecosystem and introduce fruit trees to diversify the economy. They pay consistently higher prices to the farmers and provide agricultural training as well as keep fit classes.
To achieve a consistent cup profile requires a flexible approach as the farms have varying microclimates, altitudes and harvest times. The beans are of different Arabica varieties, Gayo 1 and Gayo 2. Both are local varieties and natural hybrids. The flavour is also dependent on the unique processing of the cherries. They are picked in the morning then wet processed at a mill where the cherries are pulped to remove the skins. They are then fermented in a tank for 12-24 hours, washed, and sun dried in two stages. This process is called Giling Basah, or wet hulled as the parchment layer is removed when the beans have a moisture content of around 30%. The second drying is to reduce the moisture to 12.5%, ready for export.
We spent a while profiling Sumatra Hutan as its higher moisture content makes it challenging to roast in such a way as to produce the flavours locked inside. As with all Indonesia coffees it has an earthy quality and is low in acidity. Nevertheless, a fruity intensity of blackberry and a pineapple sweetness is also evident all finished off with a brown sugar density which is reminiscent of ginger cake. This makes it a lovely coffee to drink black but it works really well with milk due to its depth and low acidity. Give Sumatra Hutan a try and see how you like it best.