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Sumatra Lake Tawar

June 11, 2006
Bob Yellin

This coffee was cupped blind several times, side-by-side with other coffees from this region and others. It was roasted three times, first light (City), then again, a light roast but with a longer, higher-temperature profile, and finally to a full City level ending at the very first pops of second crack. In each case the coffee was rested for about 9 hours prior to formal cupping, and 2 to 3 more days prior to brewing and pulling espresso shots. For more information on my sample roaster and method, see our reference page.

This semi-washed, sun-dried coffee, sometimes known as Lintong Triple-pick because of the care taken with its preparation and sorting, originates in the Lintong region of Sumatra near Lake Tawar and is high-grown at about 5000 feet. The prep is outstanding and produces an even roast with minimal chaff.

This coffee seems to do everything in a big way; it's a real powerhouse! There's nothing shy about this bean starting with its (almost Maragogipe) size, at least 19 screen and maybe larger. Therefore, those roasting with "fluid bed" hot air roasters take note: It takes a lot of airflow to loft these beans and for all roasters, the beans need a solid profile with enough time and heat to allow proper development. Roast this coffee to at least the very first pops of 2nd crack. It also benefits from at least a day or two of rest after roasting.

In the cup it's a giant of a coffee, aromatic and bass-noted but not subtle; these are bass drum notes that give your palate a flavorful jolt. It's also a very clean coffee, almost classic Central in that regard, but very intense with large portions of sweet, smoky caramel and vanilla and a very slight off-setting raisin-and-spice flavor, providing some balance for the huge low end. This coffee is very full-bodied and mildly acidic with a long, thick finish.

As a brewed coffee, I preferred it as a drip or vac pot preparation rather than a French press that just emphasizes its already heavy-bodied nature. As a straight espresso shot it was OK but just a bit too intense and one-dimensional for my palate, seeming to need some high end blended help to fill it out. But it was fine as a cappuccino, making its personality known through the milk with no ifs, ands or buts.

Dry fragrance: 4.2
Wet Aroma: 4.4
Flavor: 8.0
Finish: 7.6
Acidity: 7.1
Body: 7.7
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 89.0

  • Lighter Roasts: Not recommended. A tart element makes this roast level undesireable. .
  • Darker Roasts: At Full City, it is an intensely flavorful coffee, perfect for drip or vacuum pot brewing.
  • As Espresso: Lacks complexity as a straight shot but is fine as a cappuccino.


UPDATED: June 12, 2006