GREEN COFFEE Indonesia-Sumatra Mandheling GR1 132 LB

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From: $77.60 /LB
In writing about Netherlands’ Indies (N.I.) coffees almost a century ago, Ukers* said, “The finest N.I. coffees are produced in the districts of M...MORE ABOUT THIS ITEM>
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Sweet Cavendish tobacco, dried berries, nutmeg, bottomless buttery depth of earth and muted spice allspice, and star anise.


In writing about Netherlands’ Indies (N.I.) coffees almost a century ago, Ukers* said, “The finest N.I. coffees are produced in the districts of Mandheling and Ankola in Sumatra at an elevation of 3,000 feet.”

the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie ; VOC) attempted to introduce coffee, as a cash crop into The N.I. In 1696. The effort failed as flooding in Batavia (Jakarta) destroyed the nascent crop, but in 1699 they were successful, and the first export of coffee from Batavia to The Netherlands was just 12 years later in 1711. And so the story of coffee in what is now Indonesia, the world’s 4th largest coffee producing country, began.

Coffee was introduced to Sumatra the NI’s western most Island in 1888, around Lake Toba, which fills a large volcanic caldera in the mountainous Northwest province of North Sumatra. Toba is one of the deepest lakes on earth, at 505 meters (almost 1660 Ft.). The coffee production area is a high plateau, known for its diversity of tree fern species. It is considered, by the folks who cultivate Indonesian coffee, a perfect location for the cultivation of Arabica coffee.

Unlike Mocha, the name of Arabia’s famous coffee, the name Mandheling, is not a port of embarkation, It is not, as Kenya Kent the name of a cultivar. Unlike Huila it does not derive its name from the geographic region in which it is grown. Mandheling derives its name from an indigenous people of Indonesia, the Mandailing, who without knowing gave their name to Mandheling coffee. It is unfortunate that the name actually tells the buyer little of its provenance.

There are thousands of smallholder farms averaging two hectares or less in Sumatra. Many of the farmers are women who sell their coffee at their local markets. On these small domestic plots, coffee is often the only cash crop providing currency for about 5 million people. The coffee produced is lot-by-lot diverse in quality and taste due to the large number of farmers, and the unique wet hulling / sun-drying process called "Giling Basah" they employ. Insect and worm damage to the beans is a regular occurrence with this coffee. The beans’ high moisture content from being semi-prepared on the farm, and then transported to Medan, for final finishing causes mold, and fungal damage contributing to Sumatra coffee’s unique low acid, heavy body cup character. I know it doesn’t sound appetizing, but the resulting cup, in my opinion, is among the best.

The original Sumatra coffee was Bourbon variety Arabica; a natural variation of Arabian (Mocha) Coffee cultivated beginning in 1715 on the French Island of Bourbon (Reunion) in the Indian Ocean off the East coast of Madagascar.

Hemileia Vastatrix, coffee leaf rust disease (CLR) first appeared in East Africa in 1861, then Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and arrived in Java in 1876. By the end of the century CLR had destroyed the coffee economy of the DI. Coffea Arabica was replaced with non-coffee crops as rubber, and low yielding Coffea Liberica, and Coffea Canephora (robusta) whose cup quality is considered less desirable than Arabica. The coffee economy was destroyed again during WWII. In the post war years Sumatra Typica (a natural Indonesian variety) and Catimor, a disease resistant variety developed in Portugal in 1959, were successfully planted. Some of the other varieties of Arabica being cultivated in Sumatra today include Sigarar Utang, Onan Ganjang, (an S795 /Bourbon highbred), USDA762, (of Ethiopia Typica lieage), SL795 (a Kenya Kent / Typica cross breed. You may be unfamiliar with the names of these (as am I) but they are all high quality Arabica varietals suited to the Sumatra Island soil, climate, and pest conditions.

The peak harvesting seasons in Sumatra are Spring (March - May) and Fall (September - November). Still there are trees producing coffee for harvest throughout the year, and it is normal to see flowers, buds, green cherries and ripe cherries on the same tree through much of the year.

In this “season” of fashionably clean, sharp, bright coffees Sumatra stands out as a cello in the trumpet section. Beloved by some like me and scorned by others.

-DNS, Coffeeman

* William Ukers (1873-1945) Founder and Publisher of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, and Ukers’ Tea & Coffee Buyers Guide, author of All About Coffee, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal Co, New York 1922. 2nd Ed. 1935. Also authored Java & Sumatra, Romance of Coffee, Coffee Merchandising, Ten Years of Coffee Progress, A Trip to Brazil, Coffee Facts, Coffee, and numerous books on tea.

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