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Aceh Takengon, Bener Meriah Regency, Lampahan, Sumatra
Partner since: 2019 Traceable to: 93 Farmers Altitude: 1250 - 1400 MASL Varietals: Mixed: GAYO 1, Catimore, Cattura, Gayo 2, Borboune

While this is a classic wet-hulled (Giling Basah) coffee, what makes this coffee unique for Sumatra is centralized cherry collection, allowing for fully centralized processing at all stages. Coffee is centrally pulped, fermented in poly bag for 8-12 hours, then patio dried down to 50% (about 3-4 days). The wet parchment is then “wet hulled” and the green beans dried down to 11% for final cleaing/sorting/export.

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Community Context

Gayo Nusantara Cooperative was founded in 2014 on the idea of existing members continuously bringing in new members, passing down the coop’s training and sustainability approach to more and more farmers in the region. While they produce the Sumatra standard Giling Basah (wet-hulled) process, their approach makes them one of very few in Sumatra. They are a coop focused on centralized cherry collection. Most common in Sumatra is for each individual farmer to pulp and dry parchment down to the “wet” level (about 50%) then only centralize processing upon the wet hulling process (removing the wet parchment), and centralize drying in green bean form. GNC, however, collects from each member farmer in cherry form, allowing for much tighter quality controls along the entire production process.

Country Context

To talk about Sumatra we need to speak of its size. It’s large. Larger than Texas and Florida combined. In the middle of the island is a caldera called Lake Toba: the largest caldera from the largest volcanic explosion this world has ever seen. In this lake there is an island bigger than the country of Singapore. It is because of this lake that Sumatra has the largest rainfall seen by any coffee exporting country – the lake feeds clouds trapped in by the island’s 1500m tall mountains.

Sumatra is old. When Marco Polo visited the island’s northern tip back in 1292, he found the local people speaking Sanskrit, one of the purest remaining forms of the ancient language. When the Dutch East Indian Trading Company came, Aceh (and later Java) became the first commercial coffee origins that the world had seen.

Sumatra is big; I know we already said that, but it is really, really big. There are over 52 languages over four major ethnic groups (Acehnese, Minangkabaunese, Batak and Mala) covering an area over 170,500 square miles around. However big the island, however, there is only one government-authorized port of export – the 15 million person city of Medan. To get here, coffee has to travel as far as 375 miles, over massive mountains and on roads that are mostly still mud.

That’s 20 hours north to the producing regions Gayo Aceh, or 24 hours to the southern most Arabica regions in Kerinci. And this is the main reason that Sumatran coffee is hulled while wet, and dried while in the green. Called Giling Basah, this process starts with coffee parchment being dried to 30-50% moisture before being milled into green beans. Higher moisture during transport from the farm to the port can lend to the classic ‘earthy, musty’ flavors that you get in some Sumatrans.

Another source of Sumatra’s unique flavors dates back to the turn of the 20th century when Indonesia’s coffee crop was wiped out by leaf rust. Much of this was replaced with HDT (Hybrid de Timor) (Bourbon x Robusta), its direct descendant Tim Tim, or the more modern Sigarar Utang (Tim Tim x Bourbon).

And these are Robusta-Arabica hybrids; over the generations these have only added more Arabica through crossing Tim-Tim and with Sigarar Utang (Ateng). But there are pure Arabica strains as well, like Jember (Bourbon x Typica), USDA (Ethiopian Arabica transplant), and Onan Ganjan (Jember x Bourbon). So the genetic stock is absolutely unique.

But what makes Sumatra truly unique are Sumatrans. As a new generation takes the reigns, they are taking the country headlong into specialty. The past years have seen an explosion of washed coffees, naturals, honeys, new varietals, new regions and new ways of thinking about Sumatra’s role in specialty coffee. Not just locally, but regionally –Indonesian coffee has so much to offer, and so much of what comes out of Bali, Flores, Timor and Sulawesi comes through Sumatra.