One of the goals of this blog is continuing coffee education. It is time to revisit this topic.  I have previously written about Starbucks Sumatra Siborong-Borong and with this blog post we revisit that precious coffee along with Sumatra Aceh and Timor Lorosa’e.  These coffees are produced in very small quantities (please remember coffee is an agricultural product) and sold in limited international markets. I owe a big thank you to @jorda_nn on twitter who mailed me the coffees featured in this post.  He is a partner in Australia, which is one of the international markets where Sumatra Siborong-borong and Sumatra Aceh are available for purchase.

On May 22, 2010, I dropped by 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea and asked barista-Matt to include them in his daily cupping.  15th Avenue Coffee and Tea is run and operated by Starbucks, and offers daily cuppings at 11:00 a.m, seven days a week.  If you’re in Seattle, this is a must do: It’s free; it’s about coffee education; and it’s a fabulous way to introduce your palate to rare Starbucks coffees.  In addition, I suggest that my readers follow 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea on twitter – Their twitter profile is the link in their name.

(By the way, though I write about coffee education, I don’t profess to be an expert or a “coffee master”.  I have no black apron.)

This blog has explored the topic of cuppings several times, and here are those previous blog posts, if you want to peruse them:

Your intro to a cupping at 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea – Good starting point to learn what a cupping is.

Combo cupping – Includes tea cupping information

Cupping Starbucks Mexico and Organic Yirgacheffe

First a little background information on these coffees:

Sumatra Siborong Borong:

This coffee comes from the growing region of Sumatra around the town of Siborong Borong.  The Batak people have been meticulously growing coffee for a hundred years in this region, passing down the art of growing coffee for generations. The beans are washed, and then sun-dried.  This growing region of Sumatra is on the southern shores of Lake Toba, and is high altitude with volcanic soil.

This is a full-bodied coffee with hints of basil notes, and a soft acidity.

Sumatra Aceh:

The Sumatra Aceh coffee comes from the Aceh province of northern Sumatra.  It is extra bold with subtle earthy flavors.  It comes from small-holder farms at high altitudes where the farmers traditionally use coffee cherry husks as an organic fertilizer, and use more than 10 different native species of shade trees.


Today at 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea we cupped the following:

As usual, the barista prepared the cupping by grinding about 13 grams of coffee, and brewing the coffee directly into the coffee cup for about three to four minutes.  Once the coffee has brewed, the customers “break the crust” of the coffee and scrape away the top of layer of coffee crust that has formed.  Next everyone gets a good smell of the coffee.  After that, each person uses a cupping spoon and has a good slurp of the coffees on the table.  A coffee cupper tries to slurp the coffee, taking care not to consume it, and tastes it and spits it out. This process is repeated for each coffee.

A large part of the fun of a cupping is listening to how every one participating describes the coffee.  For example, barista-Matt thought that the Sumatra Siborong-Borong had a very distinct bell peppery-tomato flavor.  I noticed that I could really detect that more as the coffee cooled down.  I thought the Aceh coffee actually had just a touch of cherry notes to it, and was a little more fruity than the Siborong-Borong.  As always, I thought the Sulawesi Kalosi tasted like black pepper. It’s a very bold coffee and not my favorite. A customer who participated was especially fond of the China Yunan province coffee (also known as South of the Clouds Coffee).  The Sumatra Siborong-Borong was nearly toe-curling good.  I also liked the Timor Lorosa’e coffee though its flavor was a little flat because the beans were not particularly freshly roasted.

Every time we’re all done with the cupping, I look at the table and think we’ve made a bit of a mess, and how much fun I had.  15th Avenue Coffee and Tea is still a visually beautifully store to me, so I am including a few photos taken inside the store today, near the register and espresso bar area of the store.  Of course, I talk a lot about cuppings, but don’t forget that a customer can get local pastries at 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, Mighty O donuts, pour over coffee, a coffee made with the Clover, and a hand-crafted espresso drink made on a La Marzocco espresso maker.  This store also recently got a blender, and so it is now possible to get a Frappuccino-like drink at the store too.  The menu calls it a Frappuccino, but my understanding is that their recipe is not quite the same as the Starbucks-branded recipe.  Also, though there is a blender, the Vivanno smoothie drinks are NOT available at this store.

I hope you get a chance to try these great coffees some time.  I know that many of my readers might feel frustrated because these coffees are not sold in the United States Starbucks’ market, but I have readers from all over, so I still feel it is worthwhile to talk about great coffees that are offered internationally.  Also, the Starbucks Sumatra Siborong-Borong previously was offered at Starbucks as a black apron coffee, so it is still possible that it will come back again as a promotional limited offering.  These rare offerings are sold in Australia, and you may recall in a previous blog post, I had a customer in the Philippines mention that Sumatra Siborong-Borong is a seasonal offering in the Philippines.