Tasting Notes: Heavy body, apricot, cedar, dark chocolate and molasses
Variety: Ateng, Bergendal, TimTim
Region: Lake Toba
Farm: Various small holders
Elevation: 3,300 ft
Process: Wet hulled, patio dried
Last month’s White Label feature, Colombia Maragogipe, demonstrated that great flavors can come in big packages – this month’s selection, a Sumatra peaberry, delivers on the promise of great things coming in small packages.
What we know as the coffee “bean” is the seed of the coffee tree, developed inside the berry sized fruit most commonly as one of a pair, each with one flat and one rounded side. The most common mutation in coffee bean morphology is the “peaberry”, the result of only one seed developing in an individual fruit. Peaberries are rounded ovals, with no flat side, and represent 2 to 8 percent of the seeds produced by a given coffee tree. Some origins sort out their peaberry, some leave it mixed in with the flatbean. Some tasters prize the peaberry as having all the plant energy of two seeds packed into one, others dismiss this theory as botanically inaccurate. We can say with certainty that peaberries absorb heat differently than flatbean coffees, their uniformity of size and density allow for a more even roast.
Our Sumatra Raja Batak Peaberry is a rare representative of this type of coffee from the Lintong area adjoining Lake Toba, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world. The coffee comes from several farms operated by the local Batak people, and is purchased directly from them by our supplier, insuring a more consistent quality than would be available on the open market. The green beans have that dark jade look to them, and many of the peaberries display the elongated shape commonly associated with coffees of the region.
The complex cup is a delightful mixture of the familiar and the unexpected. The body is syrupy, and the earthy, dark toned flavors are typical of the best Sumatras. But we found the real fascination to be in the aromas. Our regional expectations of bittersweet chocolate and light herbal notes were fulfilled, but accompanied by an unexpected hint of apricot that gains intensity as the cup cools. Aromas of peat, aromatic wood and nutmeg follow, rounded off by a dark maltiness in the finish reminiscent of molasses. Sumatra Raja Batak Peaberry, while a bit off the beaten path for this origin, brews up an engaging and satisfying cup that merits attention from hot to cool as it displays a range of flavors.