Coffee. There’s a lot to love, and a lot to learn. You can – as some people do – spend your whole life studying coffee’s intricacies and still have another lifetime’s worth of learning to do. From different kinds of beans, brewing methods, and farming practices, there is an unbelievable amount of information that makes coffee so compelling.
One of the biggest factors in creating a great cup of coffee is the location where it’s grown. From weather to soil content and the quality and humidity of the air, there are many variables that can change the development of the coffee fruit which will ultimately impact the coffee. These variances are what create the subtle nuances in the coffee’s flavor – whether it’s “fruity,” “nutty,” “earthy,” or “chocolaty.”
Different regions around the world have unique characteristics that create your coffee’s distinct flavor. One of the most unique tastes comes from Sumatra, the largest island in Indonesia. Next door to familiarly-named Java, Sumatra lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire – a horseshoe shaped area in the Pacific Ocean that contains more than 75 percent of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
This volcanic activity has left Sumatra with a rich, fertile soil perfect for growing coffee. This island nation is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee, with Arabica beans coming from the cooler highlands (some farms are located as high as 5,000 feet above sea level) and Robusta from the warmer lowlands. That soil feeds the coffee plants a rich mix of minerals, from which Sumatran coffee gets its deep, earthy, chocolaty flavors.
At Joffrey’s, we often hear our Head Roastmaster, Chris deMezzo, spouting off tidbits of “wisdom” like, “You have no idea the work put into that cup of coffee;” “Do you even know how those earthy notes appear in your coffee?” And, my personal favorite, “You just don’t understand.”
I knew there must be some substance behind these statements as Chris has been roasting coffee for more than 30 years, and has traveled to countless coffee-producing countries touring the farms to choose firsthand the beans that are used in Joffrey’s roasts. I was fortunate enough to travel with him to Sumatra to see exactly how right he was.
Not only did I see it, I felt it. The farmers we met were warm and gracious, quick to look up from their work with a bright and welcoming smile. Even more amazing was witnessing the effort the farmers put forth in all aspects of harvesting the bean. Whether it was carrying the tan burlap bags up and down hillsides, filled with upwards of 200 pounds of saturated beans, or ensuring that each individual bean was turned over during their drying period, these farmers gave it their all.
As a Roastmaster’s Apprentice who takes immense pride in what we do, it was reassuring and uplifting to see our passion mirrored in those who grow the products we use. And, as much as it pains me to say, Chris was right. Until I saw it first hand, I had no idea how much work went into my coffee.
I learned a lot on this trip throughout Sumatra, and I can’t wait to share with you everything I learned.
Author: Andrew Abrams