Sumatra is one of the Pacific Islands above Australia. It’s often in the news, because Sumatra is the home of continual disasters: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and typhoons. The coffee grown here is a dark rich full-bodied coffee. Sumatran coffee is very low acid. Mandheling coffee is a term that blankets several co-ops on the island and refers to the ethnic people who grow it. Some of the co-ops are certified Fair Trade Organic, and those are the co-ops we buy, although the taste is not particularly different. There are approximately 1000 families involved that you are feeding when you drink it. About 80% of the average family income comes from their coffee gardens. They share processing and hulling machines, and export it jointly. They really do ride on elephants and even use elephants to haul the weight of coffee to the mills.
We roast it dark to show off its earthy, smoky, bold taste. There are undertones of tobacco and oak. It is smooth and mildly bitter. The first sip is always a shock. The second sip is sweeter. The third sip is intriguing. By the time your mug is empty, you long for another.
Because of the nature of co-op coffee, consistency is not a priority to the exporters and everything with the Mandheling is most definitely not created equal. We buy the top grade (Grade 1) that was picked mid-crop to ensure the highest quality we can get. It doesn’t REALLY matter since we’re dark roasting most of it anyway, but for home roasters who are buying it by the pound, we want to make sure it’s not disappointing.
We use this coffee in Outdoorsy Sumatra, Pacific Blend, French Roast, Espresso, and several “house blends”