Delicate and floral as you'd expect and hope for. Pomegranate, Lychee and Oolong tea.
Yet another stunning example of a washed Yirgacheffe from our partners at Cafe Imports. This coffee is processed in the Aricha wet mill near Edido village (or kebele). Aricha is about 8 kilometers from the centre of Yirgacheffe town.
As with most coffees from Ethiopia, this lot is made up of heirloom varieties and grown largely organically (though not certified as such). This Aricha is a washed process coffee, meaning that the fruit surrounding the seed is totally removed prior to drying - this process tends to lend itself to a consistently clean, sweet, and refined flavour profile.
Identifying the flavour descriptors for this coffee highlighted one of the main reasons why coffee professionals need to speak a common language such as that laid down by the Speciality Coffee Association and World Coffee Research organisation. My own initial tastings led me to peach-tea, opal fruits and lavender (which are the descriptors on the initial labels). Then a couple of folk looked blankly at me when I mentioned opal fruits. Apparently this brand name was renamed Starburst in 1998. Luckily I have some great tasters as helpers (Lewis and Tony) and together we were able to identify the more nuanced descriptors. Typically the interactions during a cupping session run along the lines of.. peachy, fruit-tea, peach-tea, liptons, more delicate, green tea, white tea, oolong. BINGO.
More on Ethiopian coffee
Among coffee-producing countries, Ethiopia holds near-legendary status not only because it’s the “birthplace” of Arabica coffee, but also because it is simply unlike every other place in the coffee world. Unlike the vast majority of coffee-growing countries, the plant was not introduced as a cash crop through colonisation. Instead, growing, processing, and drinking coffee is part of the everyday way of life, and has been for centuries, since the trees were discovered growing wild in forests and eventually cultivated for household use and commercial sale.
From an outsider’s perspective, this adds to the great complexity that makes Ethiopian coffee so hard to fully comprehend—culturally, politically, and economically as well as simply culinarily. Add to that the fact that the genetic diversity of the coffee here is unmatched globally; there is 99% more genetic material in Ethiopia’s coffee alone than in the entire rest of the world. There are no coffees that are spoken of with the reverence or romance that Ethiopian coffees are.
The majority of Ethiopia’s farmers are smallholders and sustenance farmers, with less than 1 hectare of land apiece; in many cases it is almost more accurate to describe the harvests as “garden coffee,” as the trees do sometimes grow in more of a garden or forest environment than what we imagine fields of farmland to look like. There are some large privately owned estates, as well as co-operative society comprising a mix of small and more mid-size farms, but the average producer here grows relatively very little for commercial sale.
There are several ways coffee is prepared for market in Ethiopia. Large estates are privately owned and operated by hired labor; the coffee is often picked, processed, and milled on the property. On the other end of the spectrum, “garden coffee” is brought by a farmer in cherry form to the closest or most convenient washing station, where it is sold and blended with other farmers’ lots and processed according to the desires of the washing station. Co-op members will bring their cherry to be weighed and received at a co-op washing station, where there is more traceability to the producer level as per membership rosters of the cooperative.
The profile of Ethiopian coffees will vary based on a number of factors, including variety, process, and micro-region. As a general rule of thumb, natural processed coffees will have much more pronounced fruit and deep chocolate tones, often with a bit of a winey characteristic and a syrupy body. Washed coffees will be lighter and have more pronounced acidity, though the individual characteristics will vary.
There is only one main harvest a year in Ethiopia which usually takes place in November and December across all of the country's growing regions. There are on average 4 passes made during the harvest period, and in regions that produce both washed and naturals, the last pass is used for the natural coffee. Washed coffees are then generally pulped on the same day that they are picked.
A mix of local variety’s. Such as native coffee of forest origin transferred to family smallholder plots. The varieties are referred to collectively as Ethiopian Heirloom, which is a myriad of local native Typica hybrids and new improved varietals based on the old strains.