Sumatra Wahana

September 16, 2013

Coffee is endlessly complex. As baristas, we seek out complexity in coffee.  It is my mission to control the complications involved with preparing some of the worlds finest most sought after coffee.  Our Sumatra Wahana is one of those rare gems of forced complication, of working outside of the norm to produce a product which is surprising, which awards the farm with greater returns on its investment for not only safe-guarding the practices that have made Sumatran coffees prized but increasing the value by  experimenting, by complicating their process.  Humans have decided for ourselves that certain products are higher quality  than others; some ought to be more difficult to obtain, and we therefore are more inclined to spend more for those items. Wines, cheeses, and spices are among those products; so why do we still treat coffee as a given: as something that has and will always be? Coffee is no less exotic than saffron or cardamom, nor less labor intensive than any fine French or Italian wine. As I delve deeper in to the culture of coffee, the more overwhelmed I become. When I was first introduced to coffee professionally, it all seemed fairly simple: good coffee is harder to get, so it is more sought after. The inevitable question, becomes: what makes certain coffees better than others? This is where the information becomes too vast to process at once. Take the classic Sumatran coffee. The first people to process coffee as we know it today were in East Africa, they dried the fruit with the precious seeds, or beans, as we know them, still within. Coffees from this region often have distinctive fruit  or berry qualities, such sweetness or juiciness can have a citric bite similar to lime, grapefruit or fresh berries. However, Indonesia can be too humid for coffees to simply be dried after picking; the fruit would rot and impart its rank flavor on the final product. Instead, it became customary to wash the fruit off the bean before drying. This contributes to the heavy bodied, earthy flavors associated with coffees from this region. But what happens to the flavor when the fruit is dried on the bean?  The farmers of the Wahana Estate wanted to know. The end product is one of the  most unique available; just the smell of the grounds evokes strawberries and the first sip has all the sweetness of a ripe banana and honeydew melon. This is one example of one experimentation with one varietal of bean; extrapolate this information to every hidden-away, high altitude pocket of the tropical world and there are coffees yet unknown. Farmers are producing fruit that the market has  yet to discover. However, what is in your cup right now, this morning, or whenever is the culmination of hundreds of years of genetic mutations, innovations in farming techniques, growing awareness of the social impact of coffee on rural communities, and experimentation in roasting and brewing methods playing out.  Whichever way you enjoy your coffee, know that it is more than a commodity or another part of your morning  routine. Whole generations of humans created the humble cup of coffee we know today, so make sure to savor it.

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