Coffee Review: Grumpy Mule Sumatra Gayo Highlands

The next one in my self-treat of gourmet coffees from one of my favourite brands. I must admit I’m not all that familiar with coffee from the East Indies and this is my first venture out in that direction of the planet. My previous two have been India and Colombia. What is this next one like?

Copyright MG Mason 2017

Profile: Sumatra is not a mainstream region. According to this article on Sumatran Arabica production, many people don’t go for it because of the production method and unusual flavours it produces. As you know, I’m fairly adventurous with my coffees. The label promises bitter-sweet cocoa and dark chocolate – certainly one of my favourite flavours in both coffee and chocolate. With a grade 4 rating, this presents itself as a kind of autumnal coffee for those who like a good brew, strong flavour and rich roast.

Scent: The raw bean has a scent of coffee – not really a surprise, but it certainly smells different from anything I’ve tried before. There is a pleasant and delicate bitter-sweetness that I guess you could compare to raw cocoa powder. While brewing, the aroma is delicate but definitely fills the room with that typical scent of coffee. It’s surprisingly light for something claiming a Grade 4 roasting.

Colour: The medium brown beans are closer to the colour of chocolate than anything else, lacking the orange tinge of lighter coffees and the hint of black in a typical Grade 4. The browed product is fairly typically dark brown to black, lacking the red reminiscent of some coffees. Nothing really surprising here.

Flavour: Now for the important bit… As an espresso, there is a bittersweetness that isn’t all that acidic. Not surprising as the article above points to the low acidity to beans grown in this region. The black Americano keeps that bittersweetness. The bitter flavour hits you at first, with a delicate but not overpowering sweetness in the middle. Finally, the flavour finishes on and a slightly bitter long note that doesn’t linger and won’t have you wincing. With milk, the dry cocoa flavour is enhanced, creating a smooth texture and pleasant bitterness that is quite satisfying to drink. Adding milk also brought out a kind of herbal element. This lingers a while too. I liked it, but others may not.

Verdict: Overall, this is a smooth and pleasant coffee with a balance of everything with some surprising elements too. I’m rarely a fan of coffees that try to be all things to everyone, but this creates the perfect balance between bitter and sweet, between depth and flavour and between the earthy and smooth that should please most drinkers. It’s not quite as smooth as their Peruvian Femenino though. For me, that’s largely the benchmark for Grumpy Mule and still my favourite in their range.

Marks out of 10: A great coffee to appeal to almost anyone. I understand there is some snobbery about Sumatran coffee due to the production method. The unusual flavour to this one will not appeal to everyone; it’s certainly an acquired taste even though I personally loved it. 8/10

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