May 16, 2019 5 min read

What is Sumatra Coffee?

What is Sumatra Coffee?

Sumatra Coffee comes from Sumatra which is one of the Sunda islands in Western Indonesia and the sixth-largest island in the world. Many plant and animal species are critically endangered, including the Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhinoceros, and orangutan. The climate of the island is hot, tropical and humid and so, it is ideally suited for growing Arabica coffee beans. This weather along with the fertile volcanic soil, greatly influence the flavor profile of Sumatra coffees. Indonesia spans a number of islands in the Pacific that rest in the coffee growing belt. Please take a look at the map of Indonesia below, and you can see Sumatra on the lower left side of the map.



Sumatra is the second largest island of the Republic of Indonesia. Sumatra Mandheling coffee although relatively rare is grown on the lofty volcanic slopes of Mount Leuser near the port of Padang in the Batak region of West Central Sumatra, at altitudes of 2,500 to 5,000 feet. Sumatran coffee beans have a characteristic beautiful deep blue-green color with the appearance of jade, which is attributed to the coffee processing method, Gilling Basah (wet hulling). The natural drying method used in its production results in a full body with a concentrated flavor, garnished with herbal nuances and a spicy finish.

A Brief History of Sumatran Coffee

Indonesia was the first place, outside of Arabia and Ethiopia, where the coffee bean was widely cultivated. Coffee trees were originally brought to Indonesia by the Dutch who sought to break the worldwide Arabic monopoly in the cultivation of coffee. The Dutch governor in Malabar (India) sent a Yemeni or Arabica coffee, Coffee arabica seedling to the Dutch governor of Batavia, now Jakarta in 1696.

The first coffee seedlings failed due to flooding in Batavia. The second shipment of coffee seedlings was sent in 1699 with Hendrik Zwaardecroon. The coffee plants grew and in 1711 the first Sumatran coffee beans exports were sent from Java to Europe by the Dutch East India Company, known by its Dutch initials VOC, Vereeningde Oost-Indische Company. Within a few years, Indonesian coffee beans dominated the world's coffee market.

Dutch Coffee Plantation in Sumatra

Today, more than 90% of Indonesia’s coffee is grown by smallholder coffee farmers on coffee farms averaging around one hectare. Coffee farmers cooperatives and coffee exporters are internationally certified to market coffee beans. In Sumatra, women play essential roles in every stage of coffee cultivation, from planting and tending to coffee trees to harvesting cherries.


Sumatran Coffee Farmer Woman Fair Trade Certified

Sumatran Coffee Farmer Woman 
Photograph by Andri Tambunan © Fair Trade USA


How Does Sumatran Coffee Taste?

Coffees from Sumatra are known for their smooth, sweet body that is balanced and intense. Depending on the region, or blend of regions, the flavors of the land and processing can be very pronounced. Sumatran coffees capture the wild jungle essence of this tropical Indonesian islands volcanic soil. The coffee has low-acidity and a smooth, richness that lingers on the back corners of your tongue with notes of chocolate evident in the finish.

Indonesia Sumatra Mandheling Fair Trade Coffee Flavor Profile

With a body as full as any premium coffees, Sumatra Mandheling is frequently described as syrupy. Despite a subdued acidity the tastes are complex and intense. This particular Sumatran coffee bean exhibits strong cedar notes, consistent, balanced, sweet tobacco, winey, spicy, and a chocolate sweet flavor that often holds earthy undertones. The Sumatra Coffee bean carries the potential for this complex and smooth flavor, but it is our hand roasting method which brings to fruition that potential. This is a beautiful coffee.




Sweet, Spicy, Floral


Full, Creamy


Medium, Pleasant

About Indonesia Sumatra Mandheling Fair Trade Coffee

Sumatra Mandheling coffee is named after the north Sumatran Mandailing people and is considered one of the world’s top specialty coffees. It grows at elevations up to 5,000 feet and as low as 2,500 feet above sea level near Padang in West Central Indonesia. This Indonesian coffee region plays a role in creating the complex flavor profile of Weaver’s Sumatran Coffee.

By choosing this particular Indonesian coffee we are filling your cup with coffee beans and supporting small farmers through Fair Trade Certified practices.

How does Fair Trade benefit local communities?

Our main suppliers Fair Trade Certified Sumatra have used Fair Trade premiums to:

  • purchase agricultural tools, weed cutters, machetes, shovels and saws
  • invest in environmental education and training, erosion, soil conservation and disposal of waste
  • programs focusing on women's empowerment such as supporting women during their pregnancy by purchasing necessary medical tools
  • hire women to do manufacturing work in processing facilities
  • training women in financial management

Processing Coffee Beans: Sumatran Coffee is Wet Hulled

Did you ever wonder the steps of how a coffee bean is made? The coffee bean has quite a journey from coffee tree to coffee cup. The coffee bean comes from the coffee tree which bears a coffee fruit, or what is referred to as a coffee cherry. There are a variety of methods used to remove the coffee bean from the coffee cherry. Wet hulling is the most common processing method used in Sumatra. Even though coffees processed this way are sometimes called natural or dry processed, wet hulling is distinct from natural processing methods used in other parts of the world, such as Ethiopia.



Wet Hulling Coffee Beans involves the following steps:

  1. Farmers remove the skin of the coffee cherry immediately after picking using homemade machines.
  2. The skinned coffee beans are placed in woven bags and left to ferment overnight
  3. The following morning, farmers wash off the mucilage, remaining fruit, by hand
  4. The coffee beans, in their parchment, are partially dried in the farmer’s yard
  5. The coffee bean is shipped to a warehouse, where the parchment is removed, and the coffee beans are dried again
  6. The coffee beans are shipped to a port city for exportation, and dried a third time at the port city

Wet Hulling leaves coffee beans moist for longer. Part of the reason the coffee beans aren’t dried by coffee farmers is because Sumatra has such a wet climate, which is great for growing coffee trees but poses processing and drying challenges. In most coffee processing methods, coffee beans are dried until their moisture levels are between 9 and 11 percent when they leave the processing facility. Because wet hulling involves three stages of drying, the coffee’s moisture remains well above 11 percent for a long time, often until the green coffee bean is finally exported in large bags usually weighing 132 pounds.

Roasting Sumatra Coffee Beans

Most of Sumatran coffee’s unique characteristics stem from wet hulling. When roasting coffee, to enhance the coffees unique characteristics, and to counteract the high variance that’s introduced by a multi-stage processing method, John Weaver and his apprentice roasters, hand roast Sumatra coffee beans medium dark to dark. This builds on their body and adds a roast induced richness to the beans.

If you would like to experience Sumatra coffee, try Weaver’s Sumatra Coffee. Experience the bold bodies and flavors of Sumatra, and gain a new appreciation for this Indonesian coffee. Not sure how to brew this coffee? You can read more about How to French Press Coffee, How to Make Cold Brew Coffee and How to Make the Perfect Pour Overin our blog. 

Weaver’s Sumatra Coffee, is a superb and captivating, one of the world's most complex single origin coffees.

This 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee is earthy and smooth with inherent subtle flavors reminiscent of sweet pipe tobacco, woody-cedar undertones and warm maple sweetness in the finish. 

What is the Best Coffee?

Sumatra Coffee and Women Coffee Farmers