What is Sumatra coffee?

Are you tired of drinking the same old dark, choking, and probably ill-scented coffee with no unique smell to attach to it? Or do you just want to make those tastebuds thank you so very much for choosing another path that also has health benefits closely linked to it?

Then Sumatra coffee is for you.

Sumatra coffee

I’d be taking you through all there’s to be known about Sumatra coffee; from its origin, types to its health benefits. But first, what is Sumatra coffee?

What is Sumatra coffee?

Sumatra is a part of Indonesia. It is the sixth-largest island in the world, with a population of more than 50 million people. Sumatra is one of the three main islands that make up the country, together with Borneo and Java. Sumatra coffee originated from Sumatra Island. Earthy, creamy, chocolatey, and even mushroomy are some of the qualities used to describe Sumatra coffee. Low-acid beans are the norm (but this also has to do with the roast and processing). It is normally processed with the Gilling Basah method.

Now we’ve had a basic view of what Sumatra coffee is, let’s find out how it was discovered and the long history behind Sumatra coffee.

Discovery and Long History of Sumatra coffee

Although most of us are familiar with Sumatra coffee today, the plant did not appear in Indonesia until the late 17th century. To challenge an Arab merchants’ monopoly on the coffee trade, the Dutch East India Company initially introduced coffee seedlings to the islands in quest of suitable environments for commercial production. The Dutch Colonial Government, which dominated much of the region at that time, began experimenting with plants near Batavia (now Jakarta) and other locations. Some of the plants took root, and the first green coffee exports to Europe were brought home in 1711. Success came quickly, and within ten years, coffee exports had increased to 60 tons per year. After Ethiopia and Arabia, Indonesia became the world’s third-largest coffee producer, with the Dutch East India Company controlling commerce until the 1790s.

Large coffee plantations had been established throughout the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi by the mid-1870s. Roads and rails were built to transport coffee beans from rural mountainous growing areas to ports for export as the demand for coffee expanded. However, during World War II, many coffee estates were taken over by the invading Japanese, halting the growth of Sumatra coffee. When the original colonial plantation owners fled the country after Indonesia gained independence in the late 1940s, various estates around the country were abandoned or taken over by the new government.

On the path to the discovery of Sumatra coffee, a lot of challenges were encountered.

The following are some of the challenges:


Challenges faced

A leaf rust disease pandemic struck coffee trees in Indonesia near the end of the nineteenth century. Many plantations were destroyed, forcing farmers to switch to other crops like rubber trees and tea. The Dutch government took action by importing and planting Liberica coffee. However, the coffee plant’s strain was also infected by the same disease as the others.

They then switched to Robusta coffee, expecting that it would be more disease-resistant. It was a success, and Robusta now accounts for over 75% of Indonesia’s coffee exports, with much of it coming from the southern tip of Sumatra. Sumatra, Indonesia’s westernmost island, has a peculiar bluish tint in the green bean stage, which is due to a lack of iron in the soil. Their flavor is described as smooth, with a sweet body that is well-balanced and strong. The flavors of the land and processing might vary greatly depending on the region, or a combination of locales. Part of this is attributable to the unique processing method.

The high number of small growers is another aspect of Sumatra coffee’s diversified and intriguing nature; small farmers or cooperatives still account for about 92 percent of production. Indonesia ranked fourth in the world in 2016, with an estimated 400,000 tons of coffee exported. Only about 14% of that is Arabica from northern Sumatra, making it a highly sought-after and frequently difficult-to-find coffee.


Distinguishing characteristics of Sumatra coffee

Due to a high population of small-holder producers and the special “Giling Basah” processing technique used, coffee from Indonesia’s westernmost island is intriguing and complex. Coffee from this region has a smooth bluish color at the stage where the coffee beans are green. This is due to the processing method and a lack of iron in the soil.

Sumatra coffees are noted for their smooth and sweet body which is both balanced and strong. The flavors of the land and processing might vary greatly based on the region or a combination of locales. Cocoa, tobacco, smoke, soil, and cedarwood notes may all be found. Sumatran coffees can occasionally have a higher acidity, which helps to balance the body. Tropical fruit notes and a hint of grapefruit or lime can be detected in this acidity.

Wet hulling is responsible for the majority of Sumatran coffee’s distinct qualities. Coffees with subdued flavors and fragrances are produced using a modified natural processing procedure and a longer drying period.

Sumatra coffees, rather than being noted for their notes, are known for their substantial bodies and low acidity. They have unusual scents and flavors, such as earthy, peppery, wild, mossy, and mushroomy.


Sumatra coffee beans

Merriam Webster dictionary defined coffee beans as the dried and roasted seed of a tropical plant (genus Coffea, especially C. arabica and C. canephora), from which coffee is made.

Mandheling, Ankola, and Lintong, all grown in Sumatra, produce some of the world’s best-tasting premium gourmet coffees. Full-bodied, with more earthy flavors than Java Arabica, distinct herbal tones, and low acidity, these coffees stand out. Because of their low acidity, they are especially appealing to those who are sensitive to the usually healthful organic acids found in coffee.

Now let’s see the individual characteristics of these Sumatra coffees.

Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Mandheling is a trading name for Arabica coffee from Sumatra’s northwestern region. It was named after the Mandailing people of Sumatra, who grow coffee in the Tapanuli region. Northern Sumatra and Aceh are the origins of Mandheling coffee.

Sumatra Mandheling coffee is grown near Port Padang in the Black area, on the volcanic slopes of Mount Leuser (west-central Sumatra).

Between June and December, these beans are harvested and processed either by wet hauling or sun-drying.

The wet hauling impacts a rich body and flavor to the Mandheling coffee, which is complemented by herbal notes and a spicy finish. Most other methods hull coffee at roughly 10-12 percent moisture level, whereas this method, hulls the parchment off the bean at about 50 percent moisture content. The dark color of the green beans is also a result of this process.

Sumatra Mandheling coffee beans are syrupy and full-bodied, with herbal, chocolate, clean earthy, woody overtones, spicy flavor, slightly earthy scent, and low acidity in the coffee they produce. It’s also worth noting that Mandheling coffee comes in two varieties: Catimor and Typica.


Sumatra Ankola coffee

Ankola is the market name for a high-end gourmet coffee grown near the port of Padang in Sumatra at heights ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level.

One of the major distinctions between this Sumatra species and Mandheling is that Ankola is dry-hulled, whereas Mandheling is wet-hulled. Ankola’s predominant flavor is sweet, which you won’t find in the other types. However, this is due to the dry processing that it undergoes.


Sumatra Lintong coffee 

Takengon and Sumatra are the origins of Lintong coffee. Lintong coffee is grown in the Lintong Nihuta District, located in the south of Lake Toba. This region contains the highest coffee-growing heights in North Sumatra, ranging from 1,400 to 1,550 meters above sea level. Some consider it to be the best coffee on the planet. Giling Basah, also known as wet hulling, is used to process it. The flavor is medium-bodied rather than full-bodied compared to Mandheling. It also includes earthy notes, which are typical of Sumatra coffee. Dark chocolate, toffee, grapefruit – savory and lively flavors with full-bodied earthy undertones and notes of cedarwood and spice characterize Sumatra Lintong coffee.


Sumatra Gayo Coffee

It is not as well-known as other Sumatra coffee varieties. The Gayo region is known for its coffee that has matured for a long time. Gayo coffee is grown near Lake Tawar and Lake Takegon in a valley.

Their coffees are grown in the shades and don’t have any chemicals applied to them. This preserves the flavor of the coffee beans, which are natural and unmodified. This region’s coffee is often prepared on the farm using traditional wet processes. Gayo Mountain coffee is of a higher-tone and lighter body than Lintong and Mandheling coffees which are from the east of Sumatra due to the Gilling Basah processing.

This coffee is a freshly refined version of a classic wet-hulled Sumatra, with the famed soil notes subtle, elegant, crisply cacao- and peach-toned. The rich scent of Sumatra Gayo is reminiscent of spices, herbs, and fresh figs.

Their flavor is unusual, and as a result, they are highly desired, and it develops over months, if not years, of storage. However, just because something is cherished does not mean it is superior. It is also more expensive.


What makes Sumatra coffee unique?

In comparison to South American and East African coffees, Sumatra coffee is truly unique. Sumatra coffee’s distinct flavor and aroma are due to a processing technology that is unique to it alone. Giling Basah, or wet-hulling, is the name given to this kind of processing, the most frequent processing method in Sumatra.

Wet hulling is distinct from natural processing procedures used in other parts of the world, even though coffees treated in this manner are frequently called natural or dry-processed coffee. The following are the steps involved in wet hulling:

Farmers use homemade devices to remove the skin of the coffee cherry as soon as they pick them.

The beans are peeled and placed in woven bags to ferment overnight.

Farmers wash the mucilage (remaining fruit) off by hand the following morning.

In the farmer’s yard, the beans are partially dried in their parchment.

The coffee will be transported to a warehouse, where they will remove their parchments and further dried them.

The beans are transferred to a port city for export, where they are dried a third time.


Is Sumatra coffee beneficial to one’s health?

People drink coffee first thing in the morning for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is that they require a “pick-me-up” feeling to get them through the day. Better yet, when it comes to offering those extra energy boosts, Sumatra coffee is the way to go.

Aside from the energy boost that Sumatra coffee provides, it has a variety of health benefits. Some of which are:

High Amount of Antioxidants

Sumatra coffee is high in antioxidants. It can help the body stay youthful by combating free radicals, which accelerate aging and the destruction of our body tissues. Sumatra coffee can also keep you healthy by shielding your body from sickness caused by free radicals when combined with an equal amount of hydration.

Fights against neurodegenerative diseases

People who drink three to five cups of coffee each day have a significantly lower risk of neurodegenerative disorders like dementia and Parkinson’s disease. This is due to the high caffeine content, which causes the brain to release more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps keep the nervous system active and alert.

Controls blood sugar level

Antioxidants abound in Sumatra coffee. Coffee consumption in women is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. It was estimated that if a woman drinks approximately 3 cups of tea every day, she can reduce her diabetes risk by 20 to 30%.

Improves concentration and focus

Sumatra coffee can help you concentrate better, especially if you are doing a task that requires a lot of concentration. Caffeine blocks the receptors that cause tiredness, allowing you to focus on whatever task you are working on.


Regardless of the great flavors and scents that Sumatra coffee has, you should consume it in moderation. Sumatra coffee, if combined with healthy breakfasts, may make your days more energized, purposeful, and most importantly, healthy.

About the author

Hi I'm James and coffee is an integral part of my routine: from waking up to getting ready for work in the morning, to spending time with friends after work in the evening hours. It’s not just about being caffeinated; it's about enjoying every single moment of your day with that perfect cup of joe! At Coffee-Prices.com, our goal is to provide no-nonsense, clear and up to date information about coffee.

James Black

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