MyCoffeePub.com’s September coffee for subscribers dropped last week and it’s a wild one… from my pals in NW Arkansas at Airship Coffee, it’s a honey process (which isn’t weird) from Sumatra (which makes it very weird)! I’ve been drinking this coffee all weekend and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you on this one. Slurp!
MYCOFFEEPUB SEPTEMBER 2017: AIRSHIP COFFEE SUMATRA KERINCI HONEY
MyCoffeePub.com is a great subscription. Once per month, a mystery bag of coffee arrives. No clues, no hints, just The Arrival. Like a kid on Christmas (except Christmas is 12 times per year in this case!) opening that package is so fun because you just never know what’s going to be inside. The gang at MCP have a knack for picking coffees that are tasty and working with really good roasters. I’m not sure if they picked Airship Coffee this month based on a suggestion I gave them recently or if that was just serendipity, but not only is this month’s coffee from an excellent roaster, but it’s also a unique coffee in and of itself.
Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but this is the first time I have ever seen a coffee from Sumatra that wasn’t washed or wet hulled. This month’s MyCoffeePub coffee for subscribers is a honey process coffee from the large Indonesian island and I’ve never seen a honey process from Sumatra in my coffee drinking life! It’s not a huge surprise coming from Airship Coffee, which is part of the NW Arkansas coffee mob that has put Bentonville and Fayetteville on the coffee map. Airship is owned by Mark Bray, an agronomist and all-around coffee encyclopedia. Airship imports coffee and started roasting under the same moniker a year or two ago. Bray also owns Mama Carmen’s, whose coffee we’ve seen on KC Coffee Geek a few times, too, and whose cafe in Fayetteville is on my mythical list of places to visit if I ever leave Kansas City. LOL
This coffee is from the Mt. Kerinci area of the large Indonesian island of Sumatra. Some 300,000 people live in the valleys around Mt. Kerinci and some of the area is protected by a large national park. Geographically, it’s wetlands, mountains, rainforest, rivers and volcanoes and the area is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, largely because there are more tigers found here than in Nepal, Vietnam, China, Laos and Cambodia combined! Coffee in Sumatra is traditionally wet hulled, a process that can produce great cups of coffee but, just as often, results in weird, off-tasting cups either from the processing or the soaking up of ambient flavors based on how the hull is removed so early in the process, or mold and mildew formation as the coffee changes hands rapidly from seller to seller and is bagged up still wet. Some coffee in Sumatra is also washed according to the Latin American and South American standards, but this is the first honey process coffee I’ve ever seen from the region.
Honey process coffees are picked and sorted, then the cherry skins are removed in a machine. Inside the coffee cherry are the seeds (what we call coffee beans) as well as pulp and a goopy mucilage that is high in sugar to feed those seeds. This goopy stuff inside the cherry is often referred to as “honey.” In this process, the skins are removed, but this goopy mucilage is not removed as it would be in a washed coffee. These sticky coffee beans are laid out on raised beds to dry and they take on some sweetness, body and fruitiness from the fermentation of the mucilage that occurs over the next days and weeks.
This particular coffee is Typica variety, grown at 1200-1600masl and Airship Coffee gives us tasting notes of, “Grapefruit, plum, creamy cocoa.” They recommend it as both filter and espresso. I am between espresso machines right now, mostly, but not all the way, through a refurbishing job on a much-abused Gaggia Classic, so I stuck to my standard pourover setup for my cups of this coffee. I use a 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of Third Wave Water in a notNeutral Gino dripper. My Handground grinder was set to 3.
Aroma on this coffee is pretty interesting… I get black pepper and a woody, dank aroma that has Sumatra/Indonesia written all over it. The flavors, though, are clean and sweet and super citrusy and are wholly unlike any Sumatran coffee I’ve had! This is a medium-full bodied coffee with a lot going on in the flavors. Up front there is a sweet, grapefruit candy flavor. Pink grapefruit, but no bitterness as from the pith and it’s both bright and citrusy as well as sweet. This ramps up and peaks into the second half of the sip and in the cooling cup it’s accompanied by a dank note that reminds me this coffee is still from Sumatra. The aftertaste mellows into more of an orange juice with some grapefruit lingering as well as single origin chocolate notes that are subtle, but still there. The fruit in the aftertaste, which lasts for a long time, reads as berries to me, too… a little raspberry, maybe a bit of blackberry, as well as still keeping that orange and grapefruit dominant note.
It’s easy to get swept up in a coffee because it’s “different” or unique from what one usually sees, so I am always cautious of my own excitement for unique, weird coffees. I really love this coffee and after a lot of soul-searching it’s because it tastes great! The dominant grapefruit note is super bright, but balanced with just the right amount of sweetness. It reads totally different from what I’d get from a grapefruit-forward Kenyan coffee, for example. That short-lived, but present dank note pulls me right back to Sumatra with every sip and I even get a little blast of black pepper here and there from this cup that just adds to its uniqueness.
Kudos to both Airship Coffee for great sourcing and roasting on this coffee, as well as MyCoffeePub for choosing an adventurous offering from an unconventional and often experiemental roaster. I love it!