Our review of a lighter, brighter Sumatran coffee, from the Jolly Roger Roasting Company.

Coffee bags from the Jolly Roger Roasting Company.

Many thanks to Andrew Borntrager of the Jolly Roger Roasting Company for sending us samples of a few of their coffees.

I already like Andrew and his crew, because they obsess over the roasting of their beans.


A lot of roasters, for reasons I understand, roast their coffees to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. In other words, they roast to please the crowd. And that often means roasting a little darker, because that’s what Starbucks has trained us to expect and enjoy.

But a darker roast isn’t always the way to get the best flavors from a coffee bean. When you roast too dark – to please the crowd – you can burn off some of the subtler flavors in a coffee. Floral tones evaporate, and the caramelization of the sugars in the bean can transform a fruity sweetness into something more chocolatey and less layered.

If you know your coffee roasters you will have concluded that the Jolly Roger crew are third-wave roasters, following in the footsteps of companies like Blue Bottle and Intelligensia.

Well, this is an interesting time...because both Blue Bottle and Intelligensia are now owned by Peets, the original “dark roaster”. So maybe it’s now up to companies like Jolly Roger to carry the third wave flag. 

The Jolly Roger philosophy, as far as I can tell, is to be an advocate for the bean. In other words, they experiment to find the roast that is just right for each origin they source from.

Which brings us the coffee we tried…their Sumatran coffee.

We chose the Sumatran because it is an origin we are very familiar with and enjoy.

As always, we ground the beans just before brewing, and then made the coffee in our trusty Bonavita drip brewer.

The result was interesting, in a good way.

We didn’t taste as much of the dark chocolate we usually find in a Sumatran coffee, because these beans have a lighter roast.

The chocolate notes are a lot more subtle and the taste is a lot brighter and fresher that we are used to. It has a lighter sweetness, with hints of dry nuts.

It makes the darker roasts of Sumatran coffee seem a little heavy-handed.

We like it. 

But here’s the thing. It takes a little time to wean yourself off the darker roasts. There is something a little addictive about them.

But if you really want to explore the more subtle tastes of quality coffees from different origins, I recommend you give the Jolly Roger coffees a try.

You can find out more about them at the Jolly Roger website.

NOTE: This product was sent to us free in return for a review. (That said, we always reserve the right NOT to review a free product if we don't like it, or feel you wouldn't like it.)

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About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…

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