A wonderful super fresh Sumatra arrival!
“Mandheling” is one of the broadest coffee trading terms for a regional blend in Indonesia, applying to almost any blend of wet-hulled coffees from across the northern half of the island of Sumatra that suit a generic cup profile that is heavy on the palate, earthy in balance, and complex. Regional coffee blend distinctions in the northern provinces of Sumatra were originally based on human ethnicity, rather than geography: Mandheling is a widespread cultural group found across Sumatra and Malaysia; “Batak”, to use another example, is a Mandheling sub-ethnicity based around Lake Toba and considered a smaller regional coffee pedigree unto itself, and often marketed as such.
The large majority of coffee blends labeled “Mandheling” tend to be drawn from across a variety of local parchment collectors across two main coffee producing provinces, both of which are fortified with volcanic soils: Aceh and North Sumatra. Aceh province (pronounced AH-CHEY) is the northernmost province of Sumatra and its highland territory, surrounding Lake Tawar and the central city of Takengon, is considered to be the epicenter of one of the world’s most unique coffee terroirs. North Sumatra province, just below Aceh, is a varied territory with high elevation grasslands, mountain ranges, and the massive Lake Toba, another of the island’s most famous coffee producing areas.
Tasting Notes: A very clean traditional Sumatra cup. Best from medium to dark roasts. Fuller bodied with some nice exotic incense spice notes intermingled with a bakers chocolate and smoky cup profile. Light roast are not recommended (for almost all Indo coffees). Medium roasts were nice and balanced, a little lemony acidity upfront mixing with a bunch of spice and hints of an earthy slightly peaty chocolaty factor; a decent roast point for pour-overs or drip. Darker roasts were fuller bodied and very smoky with the spice lingering in the aftertaste, very low acidity; good for dark roast fans, espresso or blend bases.
Roasting Notes: A nice screen for a Sumatra makes it a bit easier to roast then many Sumatra beans. Low in chaff due to the processing (wet-hulled). A longer setup is nice for this cup, gives much more rounded edges and smooth characteristics. Very light roasts are to be avoided, a medium to dark roast matches the cup profile very nicely.
Sumatra’s smallholder coffee is a complicated process. Notably, processing is typically not overseen by a single individual or team; instead, coffee moves task by task through different parties before reaching its final, fully-dried, state. Coffee farms tend to average 0.5-2 hectares each. Every coffee village has a collector (or more) who receives fresh-picked cherry, or humid parchment, for processing each day. Once a batch of coffee has been depulped, fermented overnight, washed clean, and then quickly sun-dried to the touch, each collector then delivers the batch to a central miller. It is at the mill where the coffee is mechanically hulled of its parchment, leaving behind just the soft, high-moisture coffee bean (thus earning the term “wet-hulled”), all of which is spread out on large patios to continue drying.