May 25, 2018 6 min read

What is Sumatran Coffee?

Sumatran Coffee: The Bold and Rich Coffee from Indonesia

Sumatran coffee refers to coffee beans that are grown on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Sumatran coffee is renowned for its distinctive flavor profile, which is often described as full-bodied, earthy, and with low acidity. This unique taste is attributed to several factors, including the region's volcanic soil, high altitude, and the wet-hulling processing method commonly used in Sumatra.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago with a diverse landscape, from the rugged mountains of Sumatra to the lush rainforests of Borneo. This diversity is reflected in the country's coffee, which is produced in a variety of regions with different climates and soil conditions.

One of the most popular Indonesian coffees is Sumatran coffee, which is grown on the island of Sumatra. Sumatra is known for its rich volcanic soil and tropical climate, which are ideal for growing Arabica coffee beans.

Sumatran coffee is known for its unique and complex flavor profile. It has a full body and low acidity, with earthy, spicy notes that are sometimes described as tasting like dark chocolate or tobacco. Sumatran coffee is a great choice for those who prefer a bolder, richer coffee.

Here are some of the reasons why Sumatran coffee is so special:

  • Unique flavor profile: Sumatran coffee has a unique flavor profile that is unlike any other coffee in the world. It has a full body and low acidity, with earthy, spicy notes that are sometimes described as tasting like dark chocolate or tobacco.
  • Rich volcanic soil: The rich volcanic soil on the island of Sumatra is ideal for growing Arabica coffee beans. This soil gives Sumatran coffee its distinctive flavor and aroma.
  • Tropical climate: The tropical climate on the island of Sumatra also contributes to the unique flavor of Sumatran coffee. The warm, humid weather helps to develop the coffee's full body and rich flavor.

If you're looking for a bold and rich coffee with a unique flavor profile, then Sumatran coffee is a great choice. It's perfect for those who enjoy a cup of coffee with a little bit of spice.

Where to buy Sumatran coffee:

Sumatran coffee is available online and at specialty coffee shops. When choosing Sumatran coffee, look for beans that are roasted dark. This will help to bring out the coffee's unique flavor profile.

How to brew Sumatran coffee:

Sumatran coffee is best brewed using a French press or a pour-over method. These methods will help to extract the coffee's full flavor and aroma.

Here is a recipe for brewing Sumatran coffee using a French press:

  • Grind 15 grams of Sumatran coffee beans to a medium-coarse grind.
  • Add the ground coffee to the French press.
  • Pour 250 milliliters of hot water over the coffee grounds.
  • Let the coffee steep for 4 minutes.
  • Slowly press down on the plunger to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee.
  • Enjoy!

Pairing Sumatran coffee with food:

Sumatran coffee is a great coffee to pair with desserts or chocolatey foods. It can also be enjoyed on its own.

Here are some food pairings that you might enjoy with Sumatran coffee:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Cheesecake
  • Dark chocolate truffles
  • Pecan pie
  • Dark chocolate ice cream

Sumatran coffee is a unique and delicious coffee that is worth trying. It has a bold, rich flavor that is perfect for those who enjoy a cup of coffee with a little bit of spice. If you're looking for a new coffee to try, then Sumatran coffee is a great option.

How did Coffee Plants come to Indonesia:

Coffee plants came to Indonesia by way of Dutch traders and colonialists in the late 1600's, who had smuggled coffee seeds from Yemen.  The first island to grow coffee was Java, home to the city Jakarta, which was then called Batavia. In the year 1700, Batavia was a bustling and strategically important colonial city located on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, which is now known as Indonesia. Batavia was founded by the Dutch in 1619 as the capital of the Dutch East Indies, serving as the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Batavia flourished as a center of trade, commerce, and colonial administration in the region. It was a melting pot of cultures, with Dutch, Chinese, Javanese, and other ethnic groups coexisting and interacting within the city. The VOC exercised significant control over Batavia, governing the city and its surrounding territories.

The Dutch played a significant role in the development of Sumatra's coffee industry, which eventually led to the island becoming one of the world's renowned coffee-producing regions.

Sumatra Coffee

Some of the world’s finest premium gourmet coffees are grown in Sumatra and called Mandheling, Ankola, and Lintong, these unique coffees are distinguished by their heavy body, earthy flavor profile and low acidity.

Sumatra Mandheling coffee is named after the north Sumatra 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.

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, and a chocolate sweet flavor often holds earthy undertones. Notes of licorice may also be present.

Sumatra coffeecaptures the wild jungle essence of this tropical Indonesian island. Delicious Sumatran coffee is creamy, sweet with a touch of butterscotch, and spice. Before roasting, the green coffee beans of Sumatran coffee are a beautiful deep blue green color with the appearance of jade. 

 Sumatran Coffee

What is Wet Hulling Coffee?

Wet-hulling, also known as "Giling Basah" in the local language, is a method where the coffee beans are partially dried before the parchment is removed, resulting in a distinctive appearance and flavor. Sumatran coffees are often processed using this method, which contributes to their characteristic flavor.

Wet hulling is the most common processing method used in Sumatra. 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 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, coffee farmers wash off the mucilage (remaining fruit) by hand
  4. The coffee beans, in their parchment, are partially dried in the coffee farmer’s yard
  5. The coffee beans are shipped to a warehouse, where the parchment is removed, and the coffee beans continue to dry
  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 Moist for Longer

Part of the reason the coffee beans are not dried by coffee farmers is because Sumatra has such a wet climate, which is great for growing coffee trees but poses processing challenges. In most 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 it’s finally exported.

Wet Hulling Produces Unique Characteristics

Sumatran coffee’s unique characteristics stem from wet hulling. The modified natural processing method and extended drying time produce coffees with muted flavors and aromas. Instead of being known for their notes, Sumatran coffees are typically characterized by their full bodies and low acidity. The aromas and flavors they do feature tend to be funky: earthy, spicy, wild, and mushroomy. 

To enhance the coffee beans unique characteristics, and to counteract the high variance that’s introduced by a multi-stage processing method and using homemade hulling machines, most coffee roasters will roast Sumatra coffee dark. This builds on their body and adds a roast induced richness to the coffee beans.

When you experience Sumatran coffee, some customers say they are hooked for life. Weaver’s Sumatra Coffee offers an experience of the bold bodies and flavors of Sumatra.  Be adventurous and gain a new appreciation for the processing methods used in other parts of the world. Either way, you’ll learn something new about coffee.

Weaver’s Sumatra Coffee, is a superb and captivating—one of the world's most complex single origin coffees. Inherent subtle flavors reminiscent of sweet pipe tobacco, woody-cedar undertones and warm maple sweetness in the finish. This 100% Fair Trade Certified coffee is earthy and smooth with a robust body.

We are artisan coffee roasters from the San Francisco Bay, and we love what we do.  Our Master Coffee Roaster has been roasting coffee since 1980 and worked as the Master Coffee Roaster at Peet's Coffee for 27 years, until he left to start our company with Renee Brown, Michael Brown, and Bryce Inouye.