FTO Sumatra Mandheling

Our FTO (Fair Trade, Organic) Sumatra Mandheling is produced by 1,831 individual farmers of the Permata Gayo Co-op. Farmlands span across 35 different villages throughout the mountainous terrain of the Aceh province and Gayo region of Northwestern Sumatra, where a number of varietals (Bourbon, S Lini, TimTim, P 88, Ateng and Catimor) are produced at elevations of 3,900 – 5,200 feet. This is a Grade-1, Double Picked, Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified coffee processed in the traditional semi-washed (wet-hulled) or Giling Basah method. The cup has a pronounced body, medium acidity, a slight spiciness, sweet caramel notes and a nice earthiness.

In 2006 the Permata Gayo Co-op was established with only 50 farmers from 5 different villages. By 2007 the co-op received its organic certification and membership expanded by an additional 450 farmers. Two years later in 2009, member ranks swelled to 1,500 individuals—many of whom were women working both at the farm level and within co-op management. Permata Gayo operates its own cupping and training program, located at their office and cupping facility, which was remodeled in 2010. Several times a year members now have the opportunity to collaborate with green buyers and local collectors in order to identify quality issues and spurn improvements. Members are also able to access an arabica varietal and shade tree nursery, that to date has produced over 500,000 seedlings of a wide variety of plants including coffee, mahogany and an assortment of avocado, citrus, durian and guava. Membership can use the coffee seedlings to replace old or damaged vines, and the non-coffee seedlings can be used to provide natural shade cover and boost overall biodiversity in the event of a low-yielding harvest. The co-op aims to continually increase yields and income for its members year over year through its focus on seed production, soil management, pest control and improved drying and fermentation facilities.

Coffee premiums provided by the Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance programs have already afforded Permata Gayo members a number of successes such as the establishment of food assistance programs, women’s pregnancy and health programs and the creation of sustainability and environment conservation initiatives. The vast majority of the Permata Gayo Co-op’s production is exported to the United States, but together Germany, The U.K. and Taiwan account for a large portion of the remaining yield.

Throughout Aceh arabica farms benefit from ideal growing conditions and microclimates provided by the region’s vast pine forests and the widespread availability of volcanic soil. Thankfully in this area the production of coffee has proved itself to be viable and also one of the best economic options for locals who have had to endure long periods of civil war and conflict. Farmers are responsible for growing and harvesting their cherries but the rest is handled by local community collectors, as is traditional throughout much of Sumatra and Sulawesi. Collectors then handle the pulping, washing and drying before transporting the remaining parchment down from the mountains to the co-op’s warehouse. Permata Gayo operates their own dry mill in the city of Medan and oversees the final milling stages before sending the green roughly 20 miles down the road to the Belewan port for export.

When it comes to flavor profile, processing is paramount, and one of the main differences between Sumatra and other origins is just that–—Sumatra (and Sulawesi) growers are the world’s exclusive practitioners of the Semi-Washed / Wet Hulled (or Giling Basah) process. A chief characteristic of the process is the moisture content of the parchment at the point of sale – Washed or Wet Process coffees (which are the most common throughout the world) are pulped, fermented, washed and dried in the parchment until moisture content is reduced to approximately 10-12%, which typically takes about 12-24 hours. Conversely Semi-Washed coffees are pulped and dried for only a handful of hours until moisture is somewhere between 25 and 50%. At this point the parchment layer is still intact along with a good portion of the mucilage, causing the beans to be gummy and sticky if not outright slimy to the touch. With regards to flavor, the extra mucilage profoundly alters the cup profile by providing more sweetness and even body. In effect this makes the semi-washed process a sort of mid way point between washed coffees and naturals.

In yet another departure from convention, the drying of semi-washed parchment occurs on natural clay or dirt patios where the beans freely absorb the characteristics and minerality of the soil, which in turn contributes greatly to the classic, earthy profile of the semi-washed. Moreover semi-washed beans appear to have a blueish hue and frequently curly shape when compared to other types of green, due to their unique processing and elevated moisture content. Sumatra and Sulawesi farmers traditionally sell their lots to local collectors who handle storage and shipment to the dry mill where the coffee is ultimately stripped of hull and parchment before being sorted and exported. In this way the farmers are able to receive payment for their crop much more quickly than if they were to use the more typical and time intensive washed/wet process.

Sumatra is the second largest island in the Republic of Indonesia and historically a major player in the world coffee trade. It was here along with Java, Sulawesi and Timor where Dutch colonial traders first introduced African arabica coffee trees in the 18th century. Since that time, those original varietals have been cross-bred and hybridized to create several, now indigenous Indonesian species like Ateng, Bergendal, Djember and TimTim.

Cupping Notes: Sweet caramel and earthy notes, pronounced body, medium acidity, slight spiciness.
Producer: Permata Gayo Cooperative
District: Bener Meriah Regency, Aceh Province
Region: Gayo Region
Variety: Bourbon, S Lini, TimTim, P 88, Ateng, Catimor
Processing: Semi Washed (Giling Basah)
Altitude: 3,900 - 5,200 ft (1200 - 1600m)
Coffee Grading: 1
Harvest: October - June