Yesterday we got to taste my contribution to the Epic Coffee Exchange of 2013—Halfwit Coffee’s Rwanda Dukunde Kawa. Today we’re going to see what my friend David Simon sent to our team of misfits.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Sumatra Wahana Natural, from Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine. Feel free to pull up a chair.
So, if you recall, we tried this same coffee from our Brooklyn-based friends at Forty Weight Coffee Roasters a couple days ago and it was an intensely spicy and herbal coffee—not just unlike any other Sumatra I’ve had before, but unlike any other coffee I’ve had before, period. This makes me all that more excited to get to today’s cup.
As I mentioned the other day, 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
The dry aroma of this Sumatra Wahana Natural is almost identical to a classic Ethiopian coffee. It features a massive blueberry bomb, fruit syrup, raw cocoa, and zesty lemon and it absolutely fills my kitchen with its heavenly scent. The wet aroma also boasts a heavy blueberry, but pumps the brakes everywhere else. Instead, I’m picking out notes of plum/apple, cherry, and floral aromatics.
Forty Weight Coffee’s roast of this same coffee had a wildly unique flavor profile up front with its intense, spicy black pepper notes. This roast isn’t like that. Instead, big fruit notes are pushed forwards and they greet the palate first; then—there they are—, mildly spicy pepper in the finish. It’s a total reversal of Forty Weight’s roast—really interesting.
When it cools, this coffee suddenly bursts into a fruity explosion and thick, syrupy tropicalia comes gushing over the palate. It has become so lively, so bright and effervescent, and so sweet with massive notes of blueberry, passion fruit, star fruit, cranberry, currants, plum, vanilla, and lemon cream pie.
Full body; syrupy mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.
the bottom line:
So, here we are, at the end of another week—more or less where we began—with the Sumatra Wahana Natural, this time from Tandem Coffee Roasters.
Again, it must be said that this cup of coffee is incredibly unique. Tandem’s version of it wasn’t very spicy or herbal, but it certainly brimmed with flavors; it was sparkling and effervescent, it was so clean, and it had such an incredible clarity for a Sumatran coffee or a natural coffee, let alone a natural Sumatran coffee!
The other thing that was so interesting about this coffee was that the longer is sat at the Table, the brighter, fruitier, delicious-er it got. I had it for a day or two and it was pretty spicy and fermented, like the Forty Weight was; after a couple weeks, it totally changed. Not necessarily for the better or anything like that—but for the… different.
Tandem admits on their site that they tend to shy away from Sumatras and naturals, but they also admit this coffee changed their minds about both at once. I’m glad about it, because the Sumatra Wahana Natural is a real treat of an experience.
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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.