Coffees from the Pacific Rim (Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Bali) tend to stand apart from coffees grown around the rest of the world. While there is great variety in these island grown coffees, they tend to share common features. Earthy, vegetal flavors tend to dominate with notes of tobacco and hardwood and minimal acidity. Our newest Indonesian offering, the Onan Ganjang, shares in this rich, herbal heritage but is complimented by a delightful tropical fruit acidity and a sweet syrupy body.
Onan Ganjang is the name of the small community in the Lintong region of Northern Sumatra where this lot is grown. This area is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Toba, which sits in the in the caldera formed by a massive volcanic eruption over 70,000 years ago. This volcanic activity lends an incredible richness to the soil where the local Batak people grow rice and coffee. The steep mountains ringing the lake provide elevations up to 1500 meters, perfect for growing coffee and trapping the abundant rains the region thrives on.
Much of the rich earthiness found in Sumatran coffee comes from their unique method of processing the coffee fruit, called wet-hulling. In this style of processing the skin of the coffee fruit is removed and the mucilage coated seed is partially dried before being sold to an exporter. There, the coffee is further dried (to between 25 and 25% moisture) and then the parchment is removed using a wet-hulling machine before final drying. In comparison traditional washed, semi-washed, or natural coffees are almost completely dried (roughly 15% moisture) before being sent to the dry mill where the parchment is milled off.
This extended high moisture period brings forward the deep earthy, herbal notes that Indonesian coffees are known for, but it poses its own set of challenges. High moisture coffee is exceptionally susceptible to mold and other fungal intrusions and requires special care and attention. The coffee must be carefully stirred, ensuring even airflow at all stages of the process. After the wet hulling the coffee must then be carefully sorted to separate out any beans that have been damaged by fungus or the split and crushed in the milling process. This Onan Ganjang lot is especially well sorted and cared for, a grade known as Blue Batak. The name comes from the jade like blue-green hue of the milled coffee, and the Batak people who grow and mill it.
What really makes this lot special is the varietal. Most of the coffee grown on Sumatra is either a Typica varietal (some of the most antique strains of Typica are found there) or an Arabica/Robusta hybrid like Hibrido de Timor. While its exact origins remain unknown Onan Ganjang seems to have developed its own local varietal. It appears that it is an offshoot of a Catimor (Caturra/Hibrido de Timor cross) as it has many of the high yielding, disease resistant characteristics found in these Arabica/Robusta crosses, but it has a range of delicious and desirable fruit notes not normally found in these cultivars.
It's not often I find myself getting excited over Indonesian coffees but this one just tastes special. The typical herbal notes found in Sumatras are transformed into tropical banana leaf and buckwheat honey. While coffees from the region usually have minimal acidity and fruit notes this lot has surprising notes of passionfruit, kiwi, and the malic acidity of ripe apples. What stood out as well was a syrupy sweet, yet tangy body reminiscent of concord grape juice. There is no mistaking that this is a Sumatran coffee, deeply herbal, woody and rich, but it is a Sumatra with an exotic twist. Unfortunately this is a very small micro-lot, so I doubt this one will be around for long!