We’ve seen a couple of nice coffees from Colombia and Ethiopia from my fellow Kansas Citian, Mike at Encore Coffee Co! Now a spin of the globe takes us to another far corner of the world, the large Indonesian island of Sumatra! Check out the links below and then let’s see more about this organic coffee from Encore Coffee Co.!
ENCORE COFFEE CO. SUMATRA ACEH GAYO REVIEW
This coffee comes from the Amirta family farm in the Atu Lintang region of Aceh, the northern tip of the big island of Sumatra. It’s comprised of three varietals I’ve never heard of: Ateng, Bergendal and Djember, and they grow in the 1400masl range. The bag lists this as a semi-washed coffee, which includes the various “honey” processes wherein the skins are removed and then the beans are dried with some of the pulp still intact, but being a Sumatran coffee I suspect this is another semi-washed process called wet-hulling. Wet-hulling is somewhat unique to this part of the world and it is done because of the unusual structure of the coffee trade. I won’t go into those details, and this is an excellent article about it, but long story short, the coffee cherries are removed and the beans are usually fermented to remove the rest of the pulp and mucilage. A traditional washed coffee gets the same treatment, and at this point in the process washed coffees would be spread out on raised beds or patios in the sun, rotated frequently to slowly dry. For washed coffees, this is all done with the parchment layer still surrounding the bean. As the bean dries and shrinks, it pulls away from the parchment layer and then this is removed through dry milling several weeks down the road.
Wet-hulled coffees are run through a huller very shortly after they’ve been fermented. This is really hard, mechanically, on the coffee beans and then they are laid out to dry, which now happens much more quickly than when the parchment is still intact. The problem with wet-hulling is that the exposed coffee beans absorb flavors from their environment like a sponge. In a place like Indonesia where coffee may be laid out on the road, on the dirt by the home, etc, it’s no wonder they have a reputation for often being funky and weird coffees! They tend to get bagged up when they are still pretty wet, too, and so mold and other weird activity is very common with coffees from Indonesia. Strangely, “off” flavors that would be unacceptable in coffees from any other part of the world are often celebrated and looked for in Indos! Buyers go through hell and back tasting wet-hulled coffees to find good ones, so it’s a labor of love, for sure.
All that being said, there are growers and processors who do a more careful job with this process method and they produce better coffee as a result. Encore’s Aceh Gayo is one of these, in my opinion. HIs roast level is on the darker side of medium, which is also not uncommon for Sumatran and Indonesian coffees because they tend to handle a darker roast well. Encore gives us tasting notes of, “herbal, cocoa and citric. Balanced” for this coffee. I used my usual 1:16 pourover ratio (28g of coffee, 450g of water) in the notNeutral Gino for my cups. This makes for a cup with relatively heavy body and a long, lingering aftertaste that is pleasantly herbal (not the super bitterness of some herbs) and warming in character.
There is a little bit of orange acidity in the cup to give some balance to the inherent sweetness from this roast level’s sugar development, but it’s not a major player in the flavor profile. The sweetness reminds me a bit of apple juice and there is a good amount of roastiness in the cup, too, which I quite like in this coffee. I got a couple of dank, earthy tones on some of my sips, but this is not a dirty, funky, possibly-illegal tasting Sumatra like some can be. I wouldn’t call this a clean coffee, either, but those little earthy hints work really nicely in this cup. Now that the weather is starting to cool down in the mornings here I could see this as a nice Autumn/Winter daily drinker. It has a lot of the qualities that I think coffee drinkers like in dark roasts without being a straight-up dark roast. It has roasty flavors, no doubt, but this coffee has a lot of character to it and it’s far, far from being a nuked dark roast that could hail from any part of the world. Based on the three coffees I’ve had from Encore so far, I’m really impressed with their medium roasts and I think Mike is walking a nice line between retaining origin character and providing those familiar “this-coffee-tastes-like-coffee” flavors that most coffee drinkers enjoy. Another job well-done!