The Wahana Estate is located in the Lake Toba region of Northern Sumatra—an area already well-known for its incredible coffees (i.e., the coffees named for the Batak peoples). The soil here is lush, rich, and super volcanic, making the growing conditions (and, thus, the end results) truly unique.
The estate employs more than 800 workers who go to work everyday in impressively modern facilities; furthermore the estate provides a medical clinic for their employees. With the estate being covered by Lamtoro shade trees, a species which, as it happens, has a favorable influence on the coffee trees that it protects, Wahana Estate recently achieved Rainforest Alliance certification—one of the very few estates in all of Indonesia to carry such a distinction.
Most coffee in Sumatra is wet-hulled, meaning the coffee is picked, pulped, and then hulled, removing the parchment the day the coffee is picked. Because of this processing style, we have grown to know coffees from there as big-bodied coffees that are earthy with notes of tobacco, and sometimes they’re just funky.
This coffee is produced by drying the coffee in the fruit, known as dry, or natural, process, which, as we all know, gives the coffee an entirely different profile.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Sumatra Wahana Natural, from Carabello Coffee in Newport, Kentucky. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Sidikalong, Sumatra, Indonesia
farm/factory: Wahana Estate
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1200 – 1400 meters above sea level
certifications: Rainforest Alliance
The aroma of the Sumatra Wahana is wild and untamed, bellowing out of the bag with sweet scents of ripe strawberry and blueberry, tart lemon meringue, and cherry. The bloom, though, is a slightly different story, as my nose is now presented with savory, slightly vegetal notes – black pepper, lemon grass, perhaps winter melon?
As I take my first few sips of this coffee, I am absolutely taken with it. I almost have to be, because the coffee is so full-bodied, so voluptuous, so bawdy that it forcibly grabs my attention as much as it mesmerizes me. A really syrupy mouthfeel brings huge flavors of strawberry and blueberry, maple syrup and honey, which are slightly undercut by tinges of cedar, moistened earth, star anise, and ginger.
As it cools the coffee gets decidedly brighter and sweeter, but it also gets more and more syrupy and full-bodied, as the flavors congeal and bring out further notes of honeydew melon, licorice, blackberry, grapefruit, raspberry, and cherry liqueur.
Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; grape acidity; mildly dry finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Sumatra Wahana Natural has made a couple appearances here at the Table, and each time it has been a complex and unconventional coffee—all coffees from the Lake Toba region of Sumatra are incredibly unique, but the Wahana is in a class unto itself. This lot, roasted by Carabello Coffee, was certainly no exception.
Dynamic, full-bodied, and absolutely packed with flavor, this coffee is explosive as it is transfixing and mesmerizing.
I’d urge anybody to buy it, and not just because it’s an incredible coffee – it also has an incredible cause. As guest writer, Brian Beyke, wrote in his review of this coffee last week, through the end of this month, proceeds from this coffee will go to Rhett Harkins and his family. Harkins is the manager of BLOC Coffee Company in Cincinatti and he runs a ministry that lives and works in under-served communities to offer positive choices, build relationships, and strengthen students, families and communities in consistent, stable, personal and long-term ways.
On December 14th of 2013, Harkins fell while hiking in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. From a several hour rescue to several broken bones, several surgeries to several medical bills, Harkins is miraculously alive and back serving at BLOC. To learn more about this project, check out the video below, courtesy of FOX 19:
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.