Sumatran coffee is known for full-bodied and earthy flavors. Sumatra Mandheling coffee is no exception. In fact, this particular smooth yet bold bean is known for its extra dark, supreme earthy and syrupy flavor with noticeable hints of sweet cocoa.
Top Recommended Sumatra Mandheling Coffee
- Country of Origin – Indonesia, South-East Asia
- Regions – Aceh, North Sumatra
- Best Known Growers – small, independent farmers
- Altitude – 750 to 1,500 meters
- Harvest – June to December
- Milling Process – wet hulled (giling basah)
- Aroma – earthy
- Flavor – earthy, cocoa sweet and sometimes spicy
- Body – full, extra bold
- Acidity – low to mild
- Certification – Organic, Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance, and Certified Shade Grown available.
About the Bean
Sumatra Mandheling beans are one of two famous beans from the Sumatra island in Indonesia, the other being Lintong. Unlike most other beans that are named after the region they are grown in, Mandheling is named after the indigenous Mandailing people who originally farmed and processed the beans back in the early 19th century.
Arabica coffee plants were first bought to Sumatra in an attempt to break the control on the coffee trade – much in the same way tea plants were transported from China to India by Robert Fortune (a tale worth reading, even if you don’t like tea!).
Two centuries later and Mandheling is one of the most popular coffees on the planet.
Sumatran coffee goes through a unique process known locally as giling basah – wet hulling. This is born from convenience as the Sumatran climate is incredibly damp, so drying the beans isn’t so straightforward.
The cherries are skinned shortly after being picked and left to dry and ferment for around 24 hours. They are then washed and partially dried (as much as the climate will allow) before being shipped off to the warehouse or supplier where they are dried a final time.
This process of partially drying, rather than drying out completely at the farm, gives Sumatran beans a much higher moisture content and a delightfully distinctive earthy flavor when roasted.
About the Region
Mandheling beans are typically grown across Northern Sumatra, around and including the Aceh region. Sumatra itself is an Indonesian island sitting right on the equator, providing a very constant, tropical climate all over the island year-round. This optimal climate extends the harvest period to cover a full 6 months from June to December.
This lush, tropical island is home to high elevations full of green vegetation, swamped under a blanket of mist. This moist, earthy environment is sucked right up by the coffee plants, giving the resulting beans that distinctive earthy flavor.
Combined with the wet hulling process, you’re left with an earthy flavor and low acidity but with a full body, meaning the natural coffee sweetness can shine through. You may taste syrupy, spicy and cocoa-like notes.
This low acidity and bold taste make it ideal for black coffees, like a simple espresso shot, where you want to enjoy coffee flavors without the sharpness of acidity.
It’s also a fantastic bean for milk-based beverages, like a latte or cappuccino. The strong body of the coffee pulls through the milk, rather than being diluted by the creaminess.
Regardless of this coffee’s versatility, for some people, the earthy flavors are simply unappealing. The earthy character can be sometimes spicy or mossy, with hints of mushroom and rich soil. We hope this coffee transports you back to the tropical jungle of Sumatra with every sip!
Want to keep exploring coffee beans? Check out the infamous Jamaica Blue Mountain. If that doesn’t do it for you, we have a few more suggestions:
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.