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Medan Trip Day 1 Part 2

May 10, 2012 Leave a comment

-By John Ryan Ting

After a visit to the collection and coffee sorting centre, we made our way to PT Menacom’s Headquarters to visit their head office operations. Coffee had been prepared and was awaiting our arrival to cup them.

We were introduced to Pak Budi, PT Meanacom’s head of Quality Assurance. He had specially prepared a couple of lots of coffee from the collection of some of their smallholders’ lot. We were greeted by 10 lots of coffee that had been prepared for us, you can see 8 sets on the round table and another 2 prepared for us on the bench behind.

There were 5 different coffees from this round of cupping, each of them consisting of a batch that is sorted, and a batch that is ‘Asalan’ (refer to earlier blog on the explanation)

We were all given a cupping form to fill in what we tasted from the coffee; ‘asalan’ coffee from Siborongborong is rich & full of body, while the processed lots had clean distinct character of nuts in them. Coffee from Seribudolok had fruitier character with a nice rounded body while the processed lot was full of raspberries. The lots from Lintong  was displaying notes of earthiness in both the lots, distinctively less body compared to all the other coffees on the cupping table.

The coffee from Serisi-risi was rich in body, beautiful notes of dried tobacco leaves and earthiness in the processed lot while the unprocessed lots had quite a few cups with defective flavours. The lot of coffee from Gayo was my personal favourite as it was more of the all-rounder with syrupy body in the ‘asalan’ lot and cleaner profile that reminds me of strawberries in the processed lot although it lost slightly a little body compared to the unsorted lots. (Do note that the lots from Gayo are actually from further north in the province of Aceh.)

After the first round of cupping, Pak Agam gave us a brief insight of the coffee that is coming out of Medan and shared with us the reason why most coffee coming out from the north of Sumatra is loosely named or labelled Mandheling.  (notice the highlighted area on the map – this is mainly where smallholders that PT Menacom cooperates with, located within Medan.)

What was briefly communicated to us was that in olden days, the first inhabitants of Medan consisted of the people of Mandailing from the South Tapanuli Regency, along with Malays from the Malay Peninsula and the Karonese from the Karo Higlands.

Therefore Mandheling is actually named after the similarly spelled Mandailing people located in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The name is the result of a misunderstanding by the first foreign purchaser of the variety, and no coffee is actually produced in the “Mandailing region”.

And PT Menacom has more than 6000+ smallholders that have been working with them for quite some time to produce ‘Sumatra Mandheling’ coffee. They are loosely located around the highlighted area that you see on the map.

After that, we proceeded to the board room where they had prepared snacks for us while Karim gave us an insight into how the purchasing system in Sumatra, Indonesia works.

The coffee may either be purchased through a middle man who does the collection at the farms, after which, it may be sent to a milling station, or it may be sold through another middle man. (There may be many layers of collectors before the coffee gets to a milling station.) The final collector would then bring the coffee to the collection centre where they will begin to haggle on the price based on the finished product. (The guideline is for the coffee to be at 18% moisture content or less, if not the buyer would haggle & push the price down) Another option is some farmers forms a co-op, where they would gather the coffee at a single point, (normally a milling station) where they will sun-dry the coffee-in-parchment on patio before they send it for hulling. (More would be explained on the hulling process in the next blog post) Or in some cases, the exporter might work directly with the milling station to purchase the coffee and send trucks to collect the coffee at the milling station.

After all these, we were treated to some wonderful Indonesian dishes at a nearby restaurant for a late lunch before we proceeded to the hotel to rest our tired bodies.

We shall be updating our experience on the plantation real soon.

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