Welcome to Indonesia, where coffee cultivation is a 300-year old tradition. Originally brought to the island by Dutch colonists in the early 18th century, the Dutch East India Company controlled all exports of coffee. Its success was tremendous: prices in Amsterdam reached nearly 1% of the average annual income for just a 1kg bag of coffee! Sadly, due to corruption, none of this wealth actually made it to the original coffee farmers. It wasn’t until 1860, following a powerfully written novel by Max Havelaar which detailed the injustice of the colonial system, that public opinion finally changed. As a result of this, Max Havelaar is now a well-known ethical certification, similar to Fairtrade.
This month’s coffee actually carries two certifications: both a product of Fairtrade and 100% organically grown, the coffee is produced by a smallholder co-operative in Central Aceh, Sumatra.
Sumatra is famous for its distinctive processing method, which this coffee is a prime example of. Giling Basah or semi-washed is a hybrid process that combines elements of the washed and natural processes. This method reduces the acidity of the coffee and increases the body, resulting in a rounder and heavier-bodied cup. Moreover, this process often produces tropical fruit, spice and herbal notes.
These types of flavour profiles can be divisive in the coffee industry. Some coffee professionals prefer the bright acidity found in coffees from Africa or Central America, while others go crazy for the wild array of different flavours offered by Sumatra. Whichever the preference, this is a great example of the complexity of coffee.