January 20, 2015

Urban Roast Sumatra, Jajong


The old Sanskrit name for Sumatra was “Swarna Dwipa” meaning “Isle of Gold”. However, this name, which is traceable to ancient gold mines, is less convincible when referring to it’s coffee. Why? Sumatra produces mainly Robusta. But Arabica is growing…

Coffee cherries in volcanic Lake Toba.

Coffee cherries in volcanic Lake Toba, Sumatra. Sumatra wild vist is dominated by forest topped mountains and swamp plains.

What’s the History Behind Sumatra?

Coffee was first introduced by Dutch colonialists in late 1600’s under the guidance of the East India Trading Company. As Europe’s thirst for coffee grew, so too did it’s significance to Indonesian trade. However, Sumatra’s coffee story is far from smooth.

The region of Aceh has seen civil unrest since the 1970s, most notably the Guerilla activity of “Free Aceh”  separatist movement. In order to escape this unrest, farmers fled and the coffee plantations detiorated.

A key turning point for Sumatran coffee production was the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. How could a Tsunami a turning point? It internationally spotlighted the tsunami-swept Aceh as a region of civil unrest, which brought relative peace to the area and allowed farmers to revitalize their farms. Sumatran farmers now exploit their volcanic landscape and rich coffee heritage to cultivate sumptuous, buttery Arabica coffees.

Proud owner of a traditional Sumatran coffee mill.

Proud owner of a traditional Sumatran coffee mill.

Story Behind the Urban Roast Sumatra Jajong?

It all starts with immigration… How? Jajong village, established in the 1980s, is the outcome of a transmigration program which aimed to reduce population pressure on the island of Java. The settlers, with the support of neighboring Gayonese famers, produced Arabica coffee due to the favorable tropical-rainforest climate.

The “Jajong village” cooperative of 25 farmers (part of the wider 554 member Gayo Megah Berseri cooperative) cultivate a semi-washed bourbon at 1600-1800m. The organic coffee bushes, nestled on 1 hectare plots, grow amongst chilies, cabbages and red beans. Once harvested, Gayo and Javanese civil-war widows hand-sorting the beans. Coffee ensures them and the farmers a livelihood.

So How Does It Taste?

This is a simple coffee to define. It’s heavy and (almost) syrupy. As I slurped on the coffee I could taste two things – intense dark chocolate and subtle walnut undertones. It’s characterised by deep chocolate notes and a heavy lingering aftertaste. The medium/dark roasted coffee has an earthy lasting aftertaste which loiters on the pallet all day.

This rounded coffee is perfect for those who enjoy an intense mouth feel and dislike acidic floral/fruity notes in their cup. Personally, I found this coffee slightly bitter, so I added a dash of milk and let it cool. This rounded off the coffee and a lighter nutty, milk chocolate sweetness emerged.

Freshly pulped Sumatran coffee beans

Freshly pulped Sumatran.

How Did I Brew It?

What method? Inverted AeroPress (with Tim Wendelboe metal filter)

How much? 17g  coffee, 250g water (30 secs off the boil)

Brew time? 2.30

Grind? Coarse (between filter and french press)

The Recipe (Inspired by Roast Central)

1. First a bloom, 50g water. Stir slightly to ensure all grounds are saturated.

2. At 0:30 – fill up AeroPress to top (circular/spiralling inwards) .

3.Wait until 2.30, then re-vert the AeroPress and “press”. 30 second slow & steady press.

Want to learn more about Sumatra? How the organic cooperative farmers live?  See the clip below.

Perfect Daily Grind.