Displaying flavours akin to a washed Kenyan coffee is not something we expected when this coffee hit the cupping table. Indonesian coffees, due to their varietals, processing methods, altitude and climate, historically have presented us with more cocoa, spice, cedar and earthy flavours. More recently, and very excitingly, we’re starting to see some crisp, clean, fruit-forward, washed, honey and anaerobic processed coffees come out of Indonesia which are fun, distinctive and the right level of wild!
What’s really interesting about this coffee is its traceability, and the story of the farmers that grew the beans. The coffee comes from a small mill in the Pegasing district of Takengon, in Sumatra's coffee-famous Aceh region. The Asman Gayo mill serves several small coffee producers within the Pantan Musara villages.
Aceh, situated in Northern Sumatra, stands out as an exceptional region for coffee production, with 95% of coffee producers here are small-scale farmers. The area boasts great diversity, primarily characterized by the Barisan Mountains. Coffee thrives on the slopes of these volcanic mountains, surrounded by lush rainforests and nourished by soil perfectly suited for coffee cultivation.
The Asman Gayo mill plays a vital role in supporting numerous small coffee producers from the Pantan Murasa villages. These producers faced displacement from their homes and lands due to a natural disaster some years ago, but they have since shown remarkable resilience, rebuilding their lives and farms with a newfound emphasis on coffee cultivation. Sumatra's typically humid climate and frequent cloud cover create an environment where washed coffees are rarely processed. What sets the Asman Gayo mill apart from other coffee processing centres in Sumatra is its production of both naturally processed and washed coffees.
Before the 1970s, coffees in Sumatra were processed in the two most commonly found methods worldwide: washed and natural. In the 1970s, Japanese interest in Sumatran coffees led to the introduction of the Wet-Hulled process, a unique style of handling and drying that is largely responsible for Sumatran coffees’ unmistakable flavour characteristics, but also their normally greenish-blue hue.
While there is some experimentation currently being done with large-scale washed coffee for export, most of the washed coffee produced is for local consumption. The Wet-Hulled process was developed specifically to speed up drying and efficiency in a climate that sees heavy rain and clouds most of the year. Removing the parchment layer allows the coffee to dry much faster on patios or tarps even in these conditions.
The coffee is delightfully fruity, crisp and clean. With tasting notes of blackcurrant, blackberries, cocoa and maple syrup, you can expect a bold cup with a balanced acidity and a sweet, caramely finish.
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