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About Sumatran Coffee from Flavia and UKV

Flavia Sumatra Coffee

  Flavia Sumatra Coffee

The best Sumatran coffee, including Flavia Sumatran Coffee, comes from Arabica beans.

Arabica coffee production in Sumatra began in the 18th century under Dutch colonial domination and was introduced first to the northern region of Aceh around Lake Tawar. Coffee is still widely produced in these northern regions of Aceh (Takengon, Bener Mariah) as well as in the Lake Toba region (Lintong Nihuta, Dairi-Sidikalang, Siborongborong, Dolok Sanggul, and Seribu Dolok) to the southwest of Medan.

In the past, Sumatra coffees have not been sold by region, presumably because the regional differences are not that distinct. Rather, the quality of the picking, preparation and processing of the coffee determines much of the cup character in this coffee. In fact, Sumatras are sold as Mandheling (Mandailing) which is simply the Indonesian ethnic group that was once involved in coffee production (see note below). The coffee is scored by defects in the cup, not physical defects of the green coffee. So a fairly ugly-looking green coffee can technically be called Grade 1 Mandheling.

Indonesian coffees (‘Indonesians’) are available as the outcome of a unique semi-washed process and (rarely) fully-washed coffees. Semi-washed coffees are best described as “wet-hulled”, localy called Giling Basah, and will have more body and often more of the “character” that makes Indonesians so appealing and slightly funky. In this process, the parchment coffee (the green seed with the parchment shell still attached) is very marginally dried, then stripped of the outer layer, revealing a white-colored, swollen green bean. Then the drying is completed on the patio (or in some cases, on the dirt), and the seed quickly turns to a dark green color.

There is a tendency to over-roast ‘Indonesians’. The reason is that they don’t show as much roast colour, and have a mottled appearance up until 2nd crack and even a bit into it. Don’t let this make you think you have to roast them dark (although they can be nice this way too). Great Indonesians will be wonderful roasted just to the verge of 2nd crack but NOT into it at all. So ignore the weird beans you see green, and ignore the mottled appearance of lighter roasts, and focus on the ‘what you get in the cup’.

With prices high, you expect quality would be up to, but in general this is not the case: what’s the incentive to pick and prepare the coffee better when the market guarantees a premium anyway? It’s why Mars and Flavia buy very selectively from Sumatra and cup the lots hard. What we have seen is blends of old crop and new crop early in the Grade 1 window (Nov-Jan in particular), which is a deceptive practice – but not what is provided from Flavia where quality still counts. Nonetheless, roasters need Sumatra and we know someone buys it … someone who doesn’t cup their lots that is. Problems aside, Mars and Flavia have been able to find great Sumatras in both the rustic and the fancy triple-pick categories because of the  established good relations Mars has directly with the growing sources.

This why we can all continue to enjoy a really good, flavoursome strong coffee called ‘ Sumatra’ from Flavia and supplied to you by UK Vending Ltd – Britain’s longest serving vending company.

For your information: ‘Mandheling’ is an older Dutch spelling of Mandailing, which is an ethnic group, not a region.

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