Sulawesi

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The aroma of the Sulawesi Origin is sweet and fragrant; close your eyes and be transported to the tropics. Known for its rich, earthy body and smooth finish, this bean features delightful berry flavor notes and a heady, exotic aroma. Like other Indonesian coffees,Sulawesi Kalossi has a very low acidity, and thus, it makes for an excellent morning coffee.

 

 Sulawesi

Sulawesi is a very large island that sprawls like a four-fingered hand about mid-point in the arc of islands north of Australia that make up the vast island republic of Indonesia. Most Sulawesi coffee is produced in the mountainous region of Tana Toraja in the west-center of the island. The growers are small-holding tribal peoples, part of the colorful indigenous Torajan culture.

Production in Toraja traditionally has mirrored the better-known Sumatra pattern: small-holding producers process their coffee by the “wet-hulled” method, meaning the small holders themselves “pulp” or remove coffee skins, remove the fruit residue through a simple ferment and wash procedure, partly dry the parchment coffee, then sell it to mills that remove the still moist and elastic parchment skin from the beans at a high moisture content, as high as 30%, rather than at the typical 12% prevailing elsewhere in the coffee world. The subsequent drying down to 12% is often haphazard. The result of wet-hulling plus haphazard drying is the famous “earth” notes of traditional Sumatra and Sulawesi coffees, really a mild mustiness. Thus traditional wet-hulled Sulawesi coffees resemble traditional Sumatra coffees, usually showing fruit notes overlaid by an earthy mustiness. In Sumatra producers and exporters have begun to understand how to systematize the wet-hulled method (more complete fruit-pulp removal, more systematic drying) to eliminate the “rustic” earthiness/mustiness, while still preserving a deep, uniquely pungent fruit character. (See Better and Better: Sumatras 2013). Some of this sophistication appears to have been applied to the only clearly traditional wet-hulled Sulawesi we review here, the 91-rated Ghost Town Sulawesi Toraja Mamasa, where a pleasantly dry, clay-like earth (my cupping partner Jason Sarley called it a “graham cracker” note) remained to contribute originality and complication to a chocolaty yet tart cup.

Toarco and the New Sulawesi Cup

Starting in 1976, a joint Japanese-Indonesian enterprise, Toarco, established itself in the Toraja region, aiming to elevate quality and replace traditional wet-hulling with the orthodox wet or washed method prevailing elsewhere in the coffee world. Toarco processes coffee grown on its own farms as well as accepting parchment coffee from small holding farmers in the region who meet certain quality criteria. Because of this range of sourcing, individual lots of Toarco coffee can vary in sensory detail, although the typical profile might be described as brighter and cleaner than traditional wet-hulled coffees while still displaying a characteristic honeyish, chocolate-and-fruit pungency. We review three Toarco coffees this month, the Propeller PT Toarco at 93, the Blueprint Tana Toraja at 92, and the Topéca Toarco Jaya at 91. The roast styles differ very slightly, but tellingly. All qualify under Specialty Coffee of America terminology as light-to-medium-roasted, but the Topéca, the lightest roasted (by a slight margin) showed the brightest acidity and most nut-like character, while the Propeller, the darkest roasted (again, by a slight margin) of the three, showed the most depth, resonance and chocolate.

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