Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Sumatran coffees are some of the heaviest, yet smoothest and most complex coffees in the world. The most notable of these are the Mandheling type. The Arabica coffee is grown in the rich volcanic soil in the highlands of the island of Sumatra.

Indeed Sumatra Mandheling or Sumatran Mandheling is one of the planet earth’s most distinctive and finest coffees, the most admired, supreme and prized Indonesian coffees, a favourite with many coffee connoisseurs globally.

Mandheling coffee has been described as earthy, full-bodied, syrupy and silky, chocolaty even, unique to coffees grown in fertile volcanic soil. Rich and concentrated in flavour, memorable in taste, with long enveloping finish. A great choice for Espresso.

A quasi-historical note: Mandailing, spelled here "correctly," is technically an ethnic group in Indonesia, not a region. The coffee is called Mandheling from tradition, based on a perhaps mythical encounter between occupying Japanese soldiers and Mandailing coffee shop owners. When asking what the excellent coffee the were being served was, the owner misunderstood and thought they were asking what HE was. His reply was, of course "Mandailing". Later a former Japanese soldier contacted a businessperson in Sumatra after the war, and asked if the excellent coffee "Mandheling" was commercially available. The broker was the famed Pwani, and they shipped 15 tons of coffee to Japan that year. But can you see the great irony here? The person that desired the great "Mandheling" coffee actually created it in the act of asking for it. (Higher quality all-arabica coffee was never exported from Indonesia before this). The authenticity of the coffee was based not on its true origin, cultivar, or other "real" determinations of cup character, but in the language of this initial exchange. Of course, over time Mandheling has come to mean a lot, and have very specific cup qualities. But you will find a similar situation with Yemeni brokers who blend coffees for US importers seeking "Mocca". Its suited to US tastes, a milder cup for softer palettes from a blend of Yemeni origins, not too wild in the cup. BTW: the above story is from a Sumatran source, but in fact the 1903 Sears Wholesale Grocery Catalog listed "Java Mandailing" for sale (it was common until recently to call all Indonesian coffees Java such-and-such, like Java Timor or Java Kallosi etc) so Mandailing was definitely in use long before the '50s.

Digested from hundreds of websites promoting Sumatra Mandheling Coffee