Background Info

Around 60% of Indonesia’s arabica coffees are produced on the island of Sumatra and they have long been prized for their full flavour, magnificently heavy body, and mellow acidity. For many people the wet-hulled arabica coffee from the island of Sumatra are loosely known as ‘Sumatra Mandheling’ – named after the Mandailing people from the Tapanuli region of Sumatra, located south of Lake Toba. This is just one of a large number of Ethnic groups on the island.

Why Mandheling? Nobody knows for certain, but the story goes that a Japanese soldier, stationed in Sumatra during WWII, enjoyed the coffee there very much and asked a local Sumatran where the coffee originated from. The man misunderstood the soldier’s question and replied by telling him his own ethnicity “Mandailing”. The soldier returned to Sumatra in 1969 as a coffee trader, he started to sell his ‘Mandheling’ coffee and so a trade name was born!

Whether or not the story is true, the name is still used today to describe coffees from the two northern provinces of Sumatra: North Sumatra and Aceh. Sellers of Mandheling will combine coffees from these areas in varying concentrations, depending on harvests, pricing and flavour profiles at a given time. They are more than happy to tell you what percentage of coffee is coming from where (right down to the villages) – so if you’re interested, ask us!

If you are interested in sourcing from more specific areas, please check out our pages on Gayo Highlands and Lintong coffee – two of a large number of coffee producing areas in Sumatra.

Sumatra produces two crops a year. These are typically in May/June (fly crop) and September-December (main crop). During those months the highest volumes are harvested but, because Mandheling is sourced from such a large area there is freshly harvested coffee available throughout the year, except in July and August.

The processing of Sumatran coffee (like in most of Indonesia) is very unique. Distinctive from the internationally known fully washed process, farmers in Sumatra process the coffee beans with what is called the wet hulling or “giling basah” method (detailed information and pictures here). At the green bean stage, coffee from this area has a distinctive bluish colour, which is attributed to this processing method and lack of iron in the soil.

Technical Details

  • Name: Mandheling Arabica
  • Area: Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, Indonesia
  • Processing method: wet hulled / giling basah
  • Varieties: Gayo 1 (TimTim), Gayo 2 (Bourbon), Ateng (P88), Jember S-linies, Catimor (Hybrid of Caturra and Timtim)
  • Bean size: mixed, mainly 17+18
  • Harvest season: Sep/Oct – May
  • Shipment period: year round
  • Certifications: Organic, Fair Trade, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance
  • General cupping notes: Medium-low acidity, full body, herbal, chocolate, clean earthy, woody, spicy, red fruits
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What We Offer

Fully traceable Sumatra arabicas directly from cooperatives or through local exporters.

# Grade 1 to Grade 4

# Extra clean with double-picked (DP) or triple-picked (TP)

# Conventional or Certified UTZ, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and Organic