I’m getting caught up posting some reviews. My mornings, when I usually do all my writing and tasting, have been really crowded with extra work from my real job, so things have been a little slow here on KCcoffeegeek.com. Hopefully we’ll have a return to normalcy soon! In the meantime, this morning I’m looking at Hardy Coffee Co.’s Sulawesi Pango Pango. In addition to having a cool name, this is a fully washed coffee from the large island and it retails for $18/12oz bag directly from Hardy Coffee Co. in Omaha, NE. The gang from Omaha is doing a great job roasting every origin I’ve tried from them, so far, so let’s see what this Pango Pango has to offer!
Sulawesi is a large island consisting of four large peninsulas and it’s part of the Indonesian island chain. As such, a lot of the coffee in Sulawesi is processed using the traditional giling basah method, also known as wet-hulling. Wet hulling coffee can be quite hard on the coffee beans and it’s largely responsible for the somewhat crazy flavor descriptors that are attached to a lot of wet-hulled coffees. In wet hulling, the coffee cherries, pulp and parchment are pulled off the seeds as fast as possible, when they are still quite wet, allowing the seeds to dry faster and move along the trade chain more quickly. A lot of times the coffee seeds (what we call “beans”) get dried directly on the ground, on the roadside, and anywhere else that is available. Then they are bagged up, often still quite wet, and sold to a trader. Coffee beans are like little sponges and they readily soak up flavors from their surroundings.
In the mid-1970’s, a Japanese-Indonesian conglomerate called PT Toarco started operations in the Tana Toraja area of Sulawesi. They bought farmland for their own production but also provided lots of education to native coffee growers there, and paid a better price for coffee that was processed and handled better. A lot of people love wet-hulled coffees and they have a certain charm, but clean and consistent flavors is not one of them! Toarco brought Central/South American-style washed processing to the island. As is so common in the Americas, Toarco produces and buys coffees that are washed instead of wet-hulled. The better control creates a cleaner cup that is less wild than their wet-hulled cousins! This Pango Pango is one such washed coffee from the island, so I expected its flavors to be relatively clean. Coffees from this region tend to be Typica varieties and grow in the 1400-1600masl range.
Hardy offers descriptors of, “savory chocolate, dates, lemongrass” for this coffee. The fragrance of the dry grounds had a savory, almost tomatoey and leathery aroma, to me. In the cup, this coffee definitely needs a bit of time to cool and open up. Once it does, I’m greeted by a lot of lemon acidity. It has a good sweetness to counter the acidity, but that bright lemony flavor dominates. The latter half of the sip is still lemony, but it has a bit of a savory note to it and this coffee finishes with a dry, almost astringent feel. I see where Hardy decided to call this “lemongrass” as it has a sort of grassy component with that dry finish, but to be clear, I wouldn’t call this a “grassy” coffee as that is a negative descriptor in most cases and I’m not getting that particular type of “greenness” or grassiness in the cup. There is just something that reminds me of that, but in a way that actually works well with this coffee. In some sips I picked up on coconut-like flavors, too.
I found this to be a clean and straightforward cup of coffee. The lemon character in this coffee is bright and refreshing, yet sweet, and there are some additional notes to give it added complexity. It actually has a lot of balance, making it quite drinkable. Some coffee drinkers “fear the funk” when it comes to Indo coffees, but examples like this one from Toarco cover more familiar ground than traditional wet-hulled coffees do. It’s a safe coffee to try, yet at the same time there are unmistakeable qualities to it that give it that unusual stamp that all Indonesian coffees seem to carry… there is something familiar and comforting, yet at the same time somewhat alien about this coffee, and that’s what always brings me back to Indonesian coffees with a smile!