Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sumatra Mandheling Coffee

Type: Single Origin Sumatra Mandheling
Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
Purveyor: McNulty’s
Roast: Uncertain, seemingly medium
Preparation: Freshly ground, French-pressed, sipped black

One sunny weekend morning, when I was still first starting to learn about coffee and to pay attention to the different varieties, I suddenly leapt up from my chair, sending the newspaper flying over the balcony rail and some apricots onto my neighbor's lap, and cried, "Whoa! Man, that is some excellent coffee! What kind is it, again? Su-ma-tra something? Phenomenal, just amazing! What luck to have stumbled across it! I wonder if my friends know about this…"

Ah, to be a young grasshopper, full of passion and naïveté, tasting of the good things in life for the first time. I envy me back then.

Anyhow, those Sumatra Mandheling beans, as well as the ones that I brewed this morning to formally review, were purchased at McNulty’s. McNulty’s just might be the best little hole-in-the-wall in all of Manhattan (the Strand bookstore being the best large hole-in-the-wall). I get most of my coffee and tea from there, as New Yorkers have been doing for well over a century now. Great stuff they have. I recommend not only reviewing their website and catalogue, but also visiting the actual store if you have the opportunity. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and even just browsing the vast selection in that old-fashioned atmosphere is a treat.

McNulty’s does not say in its catalogue how the Sumatra Mandheling is roasted, and I have not asked. It tastes like a medium roast. There is a mere hint of bitterness, and just as the coffee cools off the acidity shoots up quick before slowly mellowing off a little. One can taste notes of citrus, and maybe it is just the acidity playing tricks but I would swear that there is a touch of English Breakfast tea flavor lurking in the most subtle depths of the coffee. Overall, the flavor is bold, but not a punch-you-in-the-face kind of bold; perhaps a better word would be "robust". Finally, the coffee finishes syrupy, leaving the palate nicely primed for the next sip.

This coffee should have been roasted darker than it was. It would have been more natural. Much of the acidity would have been preempted, and the smooth flavor would have been in its proper element, all the better to shine as it was meant to. But that is a mere quibble; this Sumatra Mandheling is still far and away my favorite coffee. How significant is that? Every time that I go to McNulty's, from which I have tried dozens of coffees (really liking about a third of them), I get a few new varieties to try; and some of this Mandheling for those mornings when I just want what I know and like; and nothing else.

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