North Sumatra

A layered earthy profile with spice and licorice root is what comes to mind when one thinks of North Sumatran coffees. Coffee buyers may find that Sumatran coffees, in general, can taste a little ‘dirty’. But once producers process and clean the coffee, the unique flavors set North Sumatra apart.

The Batak of North Sumatra

North Sumatra has several distinct cultures that each have their own language, clothing, and housing. Their names: Pak Pak, Karo, Toba, Simalungun, Angkola, and Mandailing. These closely related ethnic cultures have been bundled together under the name ‘Batak’.

This was primarily done by outsiders; for instance, by colonial forces. Besides ‘Batak’, you find Acehnese and Malay people in North Sumatra.

Discovering North Sumatra

If you visit Sumatra, you will notice how the thick and humid climate instantly embraces you. A unique climate that contributes to the coffee profiles of Sumatra.

The mighty Barisan Mountains (Bukit Barisan) cross Sumatra’s entire green scenery; from North to South. Between the Barisan mountains, it is estimated that 35 volcanoes are still active to this day. The most famous volcano found in the Barisan range is Mount Toba.

Mount Toba is a supervolcano that erupted between 70.000 – 74.000 years ago. Some scientists claim that it steered the entire world into an ice age. Today, it is a peaceful caldera; Lake Toba. The lake attracts a lot of tourists and the community benefits from this.

To the north, the province is bordered by Aceh, to the South by Sumatera Barat. The busy city Medan is the capital. With its numerous becaks, Medan gives you the impression that the city never sleeps. Belawan is the primary port; known to ship out most coffees.

Semi-washed coffees

The volcanic soil, humid climate, and heights ranging from 1100 – 1500 m.a.s.l. all shape the coffee’s profile. Another defining factor is the way people process coffee in Sumatra. A unique method that is only practiced on this Island; ‘Giling Basah’.

‘Giling Basah’, translated from Bahasa to English, means Wet-Hulled. Sumatrans were trying to mimic the fully washed coffees of Central America. But instead, they invented the Wet-Hulled method. Read more about Giling Basah.

Map of North Sumatra and Aceh

Reading about a region can be somewhat abstract. That is why we build a map that gives you more perspective on the region.

The ‘Coffee Regions of Sumatra’ map shows all important landmarks in North Sumatra and Aceh. And, it homes in on our suppliers. Download the map here.

Coffees of North Sumatra

Searching for the right semi-washed Sumatrans can be a challenge. As Trabocca, we try to build relationships with growers that understand quality. Or, have the ambition to transform into a quality supplier. The people of the Sidikalang PODA Coffee Group are exactly the partners that fit into this vision. Through their Pak Pak coffee, they show us how clean and rich Sumatran coffees can be.