Some of the world’s best tasting premium gourmet coffees are Mandheling, Ankola, and Lintong grown in Sumatra. These coffees are distinguished by their full body, more earthy flavours than Java Arabica, distinct herbal tones, and with a low acidity. Sumatran coffees are well reviewed and renown world-wide for providing a rich, satisfying flavor, though this can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.
Sumatra Mandheling Coffee, grown in the west-central region near Padang, is known for its smooth and heavy body that is sometimes even described as syrupy. The coffee has a relatively low acidity, but just enough to provide add interest to the complex tastes. Mandheling often exhibits intense sweet tones of chocolate, and sometimes notes of licorice.
Lintong coffee is sweet with a medium body, low acidity, an earthy, complex aroma, and a unique cedar and spice flavour not found in any other coffee. Sumatra Lintong is grown in north central region of the island of Sumatra near Lake Toba in the Lintongnihuta region, which has the altitudes necessary for Arabica coffee cultivation. High quality Lintongs are distinguished from their regional relatives by their clean acidity and brighter acidity, as well as lesser mouthfeel (still considered a medium body).
The region of aceh is one of the few in the world that offers an aged coffee – typically stored for months or years to allow the flavor to change and develop instead of being sold on the market immediately. This extra care has a cost associate with it (some spoilage, some storage, some administrative) and usually results in a slightly higher price point. While the flavour isn’t better or worse than a regular Sumatra per se, it is valued for it’s complexity and rarity among aficionados.
While the region of Aceh and Lintong produce coffees that are sought-after, Lampung hasn’t seen much acitivity from importers. brokers and wholesalers in recent years, making it difficult to find on the market. Mandheling coffees are frequently sought after by foodservice distributors for their distinctively complex flavour, which is perceived as being an exotic experience at restaurants and cafes.
Sumatra Green Coffee Beans
Sumatran green coffees are known for being very forgiving for home roasting, taking a great medium roast but also going well into dark roasts thanks to their robust, spicy flavor. This, combined with relatively low price, makes them a great addition to blends. Green Coffee Importers will often sell bags of 132-lbs unroasted green coffees for large-scale roasters and distributors, who may or may not break them into smaller bulk bags for home or specialty roasters.
The standard processing method for Lintong is known as “Giling Basah”, a traditional process that hulls the bean at 50% moisture content rather than 11%, and gives the Sumatran green coffee beans a dark colour. The beans are “tripled-picked”, meaning sorted for defects 3 times to achieve a consistency not found elsewhere.
Buying Sumatra Coffee Beans
We always recommend buying whole bean coffees that are fresh roasted, and Sumatran coffees are no different. Coffees that are sold off-the-shelf (eg. grocery stores, some Amazon brands) often sit in the distribution chain for weeks or months, resulting in a coffee that is flat and tasteless relative to a fresh roasted one.
Sumatra Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
For tips on brewing the world’s best Sumatra coffee cup, see the Espresso Coffee Guide’s section on Coffee Brewing.
For easy to follow instructions on how to make exquisite Sumatra espresso drinks see our detailed guide to Espresso Drink Recipes and also the How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos. You can find information on the neighbouring island of Borneos coffees here as well. Also provided are some really helpful tips on Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot.
Starbucks Aged Sumatra
The “Starbucks Reserve” offerings include select single origins, and an Aged Sumatra can sometimes be found at select locations.