Harvest season has come to Indonesia, and we are now seeing a flooding of the specialty coffee market—it seems like all of the best roasters out there are offering a Sumatra or a Sulawesi right now.
Over the next week or two we’ll be sampling a few different Sumatras from around the country—particularly Sumatras produced in the Lake Toba region. Today’s edition of The Table, for example, is made possible by my good friend at Forty Weight Coffee Roasters.
And, before I go any further, I have to send out massive thanks to Andrew Ballard, the founder of Forty Weight, for the generosity he shows the Table. Thank you again, good sir, for the coffee and the wonderful wedding gift—they’re already coming in handy.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today, we’re a sipping a cup of Sumatra Wahana Natural, from Forty Weight Coffee Roasters in Brooklyn, New York. Feel free to pull up a chair.
Production in Indonesia has slowed down recently due to unusual weather patterns. With production down, it has been harder than normal for companies to source great coffees from the region.
Fret not, though, Dear Reader—Andrew assured me that this coffee is truly exceptional.
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.
Origin: Sidikalong, Sumatra, Indonesia
Farm: Wahana Estate
Elevation: 1200– 1400 meters above sea level
Certifications: Rainforest Alliance
My cup of Sumatra Wahana Natural starts off with an unusual (not in a bad way) aroma. It’s very fruit forward, which certainly isn’t something that I expect from a Sumatran coffee, but it also an interesting mix of spices and herbs. I’m getting a bit of a blueberry bomb, some raspberry, and watermelon, and those fruit scents are followed by notes of jasmine, cherry tobacco, cloves, and cinnamon.
Up front, this is an intensely spicy and herbal cup of coffee. It has massive notes of smoked black pepper, basil, jalapeno, and coriander. It is also intensely “outdoorsy”—let me clarify, this coffee is like a traipse through the words after a rainfall: it’s a little musty, like wet earthiness; it’s aromatic with those scents of pine needles and wet leaves; it’s still a little spicy, but it’s becoming more spicy-sweet, like barbecue mesquite, cinnamon, and cedar.
The more it cools off, the sweeter it gets. Mind you, though, the spices and herbs never go away—they just back off a bit.
It becomes mildly fruity with flavors of blueberry, cherry, currants, and cantaloupe, while a zesty, but candied, acidity comes through—like a lemon drop; the mouthfeel gets sticky and syrupy and this plays into the flavor profile as I’m not getting notes of maple syrup, cherry cough syrup, honey, dark chocolate, and spiced rum. As I said, though, those spices and herbs never go away and I’m tasting that here in the finish—particularly notes of pipe tobacco and cloves.
Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; lemon acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
What a bizarre and unusual and flavorful cup of coffee! I was guaranteed that I have never had a coffee as unique as this one and that wager was so right—the Sumatra Wahana Natural, from Forty Weight Coffee Roasters, is truly one of a kind. I have never had a coffee that was this spicy, that was this herbal, that was this medicinal. Everything about this coffee is crazy unique and, overall, it is very memorable.
This is the coffee for explorers and adventurers—not for the faint of heart or the casual consumer.
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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.