36303M – Ethiopia Sidamo 4 FTO Natural Oromia GrainPro comes to us from the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union, an umbrella organization dating back to 1999 and supporting a staggering 274 cooperatives contained within the vast region of Oromia, parts of which were once referred to as Sidamo before borders were redrawn a few times during the past two decades.
It’s not every day that a grade 4 natural Ethiopian coffee comes across the analysis table for close inspection, but we were thoroughly impressed with the cleanliness of this particular lot and decided to put it under the microscope. Cherry dried (“natural”) coffee is common to see on the side of the road throughout much of Ethiopia. Farmers with small gardens will often dry the coffee on their doorstep and then roast and brew it at home or sell it to the local markets. Ethiopia is practically the only origin country where it is the norm for a farmer to know what his or her own coffee tastes like.
In the case of exportable coffees like 36303M – Ethiopia Sidamo 4 FTO Natural Oromia GrainPro, coffee farmers will deliver ripe cherries to the local private mill or cooperative. The mill will ensure cleanliness and consistency by sorting and immediately drying on raised beds, another Ethiopian original. These raised drying beds help to ensure good air circulation and temperature control; while the coffee dries, the cherries are turned regularly on the beds to prevent uneven drying.
The fruited smell of this coffee is apparent from the moment the bag is opened. This coffee has many of the hallmarks of classic Ethiopian preparation, including small size, high density, and stable moisture and water activity readings.
I used a pretty standard incremental increase in heat application through this roast, and found the results generally positive. I noticed that the consistency of color changing at the beginning of Maillard reactions was a little inconsistent, so to help even this out I made an effort to elongate caramelization after first crack. The roast cupped bright and fruity, and while it won’t win every beauty pageant, it’s certainly a well-above average quality grade 4 natural, and a steal as a Fair Trade and Organic blending or espresso option.