When it comes to coffee, Sumatra holds a special place in the hearts of many enthusiasts. And for good reason. This Indonesian island is renowned for its unique coffee beans, each telling a story of rich earthiness, complex flavors, and a full-bodied experience. With new coffee brands emerging on a daily basis, coffee lovers have a plethora of options especially when it comes to buying the best Sumatra coffee beans. In this guide, we’ll delve into the art of selecting Sumatra beans that suit your specific palate while exploring some of the most notable aspects of this smooth, low-acid bean.
If you’re not in the mood to read the whole article, we’ve highlighted our top 3 picks for the best Sumatra coffee beans of the year. You’ll thank us later.
Bean & Bean Sumatra Ketiara
Volcanica Coffee Sumatra Mandheling
Out of the Grey Coffee Sumatra
Exploring the Sumatra Coffee Map
Before embarking on the quest for the perfect Sumatra coffee, it’s crucial to understand where these beans hail from. Climate and soil both play a crucial role in the growth of any plant, and the same most certainly holds true for coffee plants. Sumatra is an island in Indonesia, one of the world’s coffee-producing powerhouses. It ranks 4th in the world in terms of coffee production. On this lush, volcanic land, coffee is grown in several regions each offering their own unique microclimate. The results are coffee beans that deliver a fine-tuned flavor profile that connoisseurs around the world adore.
- Aceh: Located in the northern part of Sumatra, Aceh is one of the most well-known coffee regions on the island. Coffee from Aceh is often characterized by its heavy body and low acidity. The flavor profile includes earthy, herbal, and smoky notes, with hints of dark chocolate. Aceh coffee is bold and robust.
- Gayo Highlands: The Gayo Highlands, situated in the central part of Sumatra, are famous for producing coffee with a full-bodied experience and balanced acidity. The flavor profile includes earthy and woody tones, often with a touch of spice. Gayo coffee offers a harmonious blend of flavors.
- Mandheling: Mandheling coffee, grown in the west-central part of Sumatra, is recognized for its low acidity and deep, rich body. It often features strong earthy notes, hints of cedar, and a pleasingly sweet finish. Mandheling beans are known for their bold and robust character.
- Lintong: Lintong, which is not far from Mandheling, produces coffee with a similar profile. Lintong coffee is known for its full body, low acidity, and a unique combination of earthy and herbal notes. This region contributes to the distinctive flavors of Sumatran coffee.
- Kerinci: Located in the Jambi province in central Sumatra, Kerinci coffee is characterized by its bright acidity and a lighter body compared to some other Sumatran beans. The flavor profile often includes floral and fruity notes, making it a unique option within Sumatran coffee.
Each of these Sumatra regions offers its distinct charm, making the task of choosing the best Sumatra coffee beans an exciting and personalized journey.
|Aceh||Northern Sumatra||Heavy body, low acidity, earthy, herbal, smoky, dark chocolate.|
|Gayo Highlands||Central Sumatra||Full-bodied, balanced acidity, earthy, woody, touch of spice.|
|Mandheling||West-Central Sumatra||Low acidity, deep body, earthy, cedar, sweet finish.|
|Lingtong||Central Sumatra||Full body, low acidity, earthy, herbal notes.|
|Kerinci||Jambi Province||Bright acidity, light body, floral, fruity notes.|
|Sipangan Bolon||North Sumatra||Medium body, bright acidity, fruity, floral notes.|
|Lingtong Nihuta||North Sumatra||Medium body, balanced acidity, fruity, earthy, herbal notes.|
What Sets Sumatra Coffee Beans Apart?
Traditional Wet-Hulling Process
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Sumatra coffee is the traditional wet-hulling process known as “Giling Basah.” This method involves removing the parchment layer from the coffee bean when it still retains a high moisture content. This process is not only unique but also contributes to the coffee’s signature flavors, such as the earthy, woody, and smoky notes. The Giling Basah method imparts a deep richness and complexity to the beans that many coffee connoisseurs find irresistible.
Full-Bodied, Low Acidity Flavor
Sumatra coffee is celebrated for its full-bodied texture, making it a dream come true for those who prefer their coffee robust and rich. The beans typically exhibit low to medium acidity, allowing the other flavor notes to shine. If don’t favor the sharp tang found in some coffees and crave a smooth, mellow experience, Sumatra beans could be your new go-to. It’s also great for coffee lovers who have sensitive stomachs or suffer from gastrointestinal issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s for this reason that coffee is that many of the best coffee beans for IBS are of the Sumatran variety.
Versatile Brewing Options
Whether you’re a fan of drip coffee, espresso, or French press, Sumatra coffee is versatile enough to please your palate, no matter your preferred brewing method. The bold flavors and full body of these beans adapt beautifully to various techniques, giving you the freedom to explore and find your favorite way to savor Sumatra coffee.
Unique Peaberry Varietals
Sumatra is renowned for producing a significant number of peaberry coffee beans. Peaberries are single, round seeds found in the coffee cherry, unlike the usual two flat-sided beans. Some coffee enthusiasts believe that peaberry beans offer a more concentrated sweetness and unique flavor, making them an appealing choice for those who appreciate rare and distinctive coffee varietals.
Sumatra coffee is commonly roasted to a medium to dark level. This roast profile accentuates the beans’ earthy and complex flavors, making it an ideal choice for those who lean toward dark roast coffee. The process of roasting Sumatra beans is an art that transforms the unique characteristics of the beans into a cup of liquid delight.
Fair Trade and Ethical Certifications
Ethical consumers often find solace in the certifications frequently attached to Sumatra coffee beans. Of course, while every farm is different, certain growing areas tend to prioritize certifications. Many producers in the region prioritize fair labor practices, community development, and sustainable farming methods. With certifications like Fair Trade and Organic, Sumatra coffee offers you the opportunity to support socially responsible coffee production while savoring exceptional flavors.
Choosing the Best Sumatra Coffee Beans: Your Guide
Now that you’re well-acquainted with the unique qualities of Sumatra coffee beans, it’s time to embark on your journey of choosing the best beans for your palate. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you make the right selection:
1. Identify Your Flavor Preferences
Determine what flavor profile appeals to you the most. Are you a fan of bold, earthy, and smoky notes, or do you prefer a more balanced and harmonious combination of flavors? Your personal taste will guide you in selecting beans from the right Sumatra region.
2. Choose a Roast Level
Consider your preferred roast level. Sumatra beans are typically roasted to a medium to dark level. If you’re a fan of deep, complex flavors, a dark roast is likely your preference. If you prefer a more balanced profile with a lighter touch, a medium roast might be more suitable.
We’ve put together the following guide to help you determine what roast level is best for your profile.
3. Check for Certifications
If ethical and environmental concerns are important to you, look for Sumatra coffee beans with certifications like Fair Trade or Organic. These certifications ensure that the coffee you’re buying has been sourced responsibly and sustainably.
4. Experiment with Brewing Methods
Since Sumatra coffee is versatile, don’t hesitate to try different brewing methods to find your perfect cup. Drip coffee, espresso, and French press are all viable options. The choice of brewing method can significantly impact the flavors that you’ll experience.
5. Explore Single-Origin and Blends
Single-origin Sumatra coffee beans allow you to experience the pure and unadulterated flavors of a specific region. On the other hand, blends may offer a unique balance of flavors from various Sumatra regions. Depending on your preferences, you may prefer one over the other, or even enjoy both. Personally, I would opt for single origin Sumatra beans just so you can experience the authentic flavor notes of this treasured bean.
Related Article: Differences between Single Origin and Blends
Sumatra Coffee: Stomach-Friendly and Flavorful
In the world of coffee, Sumatra beans stand as a treasure trove of unique flavors and rich experiences. Their distinct earthy notes, complex profiles, and full-bodied textures make them a favorite among coffee aficionados. Whether you seek the bold and robust qualities of Aceh coffee, the harmonious balance of Gayo beans, or the rich sweetness of Mandheling, Sumatra offers a delightful journey through its various regions.
The traditional wet-hulling process, full-bodied character, low acidity, and adaptability to different brewing methods make Sumatra coffee worthy of gracing the taste buds of every coffee lover. And if you have stomach issues, you’re stomach will thank you for it as well.