The sixth largest island in the world, and the heart of the Indonesian archipelago, Sumatra has been central to coffee farming for centuries! Dating as far back as the 1600s, Indonesia began cultivating coffee when the Dutch first introduced it. Being the first nation to commercially farm coffee, Indonesia became the largest coffee producer in the world in just a few short decades! Soon the majority of Europe all got their fix from the humble produce of Indonesia.
A WINDOW INTO THE PAST
Of course, we cannot discount the fact that countless Indonesian locals were brutally exploited in those early days, but from that we can see the silver lining. As a result of booming trade infrastructure grew, new railways, roads and shipping routes soon began to open up and connected Indonesia to the modern world!
Fast forward to 1945 when the Dutch (and briefly Japanese) occupation finally ended, the Republic of Indonesia was born. This left behind a huge question, the answer of which came when the native government decided that the best way forward was to divide the massive coffee plantations amongst the labourers. And as a result, 90% of the coffee produced in Indonesia today are still grown by small individually owned family farms.
THE PERFECT COCKTAIL
What makes Indonesia such fertile land to cultivate coffee is quite literally the fertile land. Situated along the infamous volcanic belt, the Indonesian archipelago is littered with volcanoes! Fortunately, these volcanoes are now mostly dormant, but thanks to their active status in the not too distant past, the island of Sumatra has in turn developed a bed of extremely fertile soil.
The fertility is further supplemented by the strategic locale, smack in the middle of the equator. With a healthy balance of sunshine and rainfall all year round, the island of Sumatra's naturally occurring climate is exactly what greenhouses across the world can only dream of emulating. Paired with the naturally mountainous regions, coffee grown on Sumatra are generally classified as SHG (Strictly High Grown), an important benchmark of any quality coffee.
What lends to the unique flavours of the Sumatra Arabica is ultimately the method in which it is processed. "Giling Basah" (translated as wet-hulled) is a coffee cherry processing method that was born out of circumstance, but has stuck around thanks to the distinct qualities it imparts into the coffee.
The washed process is capital intensive, and the natural process impossible given the steady rainfall, so the Indonesians landed on a sweet spot that combines the best of both worlds. Cherries are first depulped, but instead of washing, they are left to ferment, transforming the mucilage into a husk, which is easier to hull, thus speeding up the drying process. This in turn imparts a very distinct flavour unique to this coffee.
Although countries like Brazil and Vietnam has surpassed Indonesia as the largest producers in the world, the humble Sumatra Arabica still holds a dear place in our hearts. We might be hard pressed to figure it out at first, but the mellow, almost savoury flavours of the Sumatra Arabica is exactly why it makes it the perfect accompaniment to your morning bowl of noodles, whilst the hints of chocolate and nutty flavours are splendid when paired with kaya toast or nyonya desserts!
And for that very reason, plus the nostalgia factor, is why we continue to use the humble Sumatra Arabica across all our products here at Koon Kee.
Feel free to get a pack and discover it for yourself here.
Or take some time and read up on more here.
Timeless excellence awaits.