My first time cupping at Royal was right around this time of year; the weather was becoming gentler, and my nose was still sensitive to the ubiquitous jasmine vines in the Bay Area. I was a full-time barista, and used to tasting coffees that made it all the way through various levels of quality control to their final destination in service. What I wasn’t prepared for was the variety of flavors one country’s coffee can present when presented side by side. One table chock full of delicious Ethiopian coffees was all it took me to be astounded.
This year is no different. Spring is upon us, jasmine is blooming, and the liveliness of nature is reflected in fresh crop arrivals from Ethiopia. Everything from bright citrus to thick herbal inflorescences of flavor grace these coffees, and I for one cannot get enough.
What you’ll find below is some selected notes from our pre-shipment cupping notes, and some preliminary suggestions of what sort of potential these coffees hold.
37275 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL ADISU KIDANE
This is a coffee that is exemplary of the herbal side of natural Ethiopians. Beyond the usual thyme flavors, this coffee has a thick, creamy sweetness that continues through to the finish. It’s easy to make odd comparisons with uniquely flavored coffees like this, but you can be sure that when I say tzatziki sauce, chevre, and fresh chive, it’s a very positive thing. At lighter roast levels, you can expect these flavors to take the back seat to bright lemon and confectioner’s sugar sweetness.
Adisu Kidane grew up in the area of Halo Bariti, but now lives closer to Gedeb in a small community called Jaldessa. He has worked in coffee since he was a child, as coffee is the family business. After two years of being a member of the Halo Bariti coop, he was selected as a model farmer for the community, and received special training from the District Agriculture Office. He hopes to have his own coffee processing facility in two or three years.
37277-1 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL ABERA GEDELA
This coffee is a classic. When I think of Ethiopian natural coffees, this is exactly the profile that comes to mind. Sparkling clean juicy-fruit flavors pervade in this coffee, from hot to cold. This is the type of coffee that dissipates on your palate, leaving you coming back for more. I actually wrote ‘clean’ three times in my notes; I’m not sure what I was getting at, but this sure is a clean coffee.
Abera Gedela is originally from Dimtu-Ag-Ere Marian, a place close to Hambela. He moved to the Worka area around 1979, and started growing coffee just 3 years later. As one of the founding members of the Worka coop, he worked for nine years until he was selected as a model farmer. He produces nearly 6000kg of green coffee annually, and plans to enhance his productivity further with the use of natural fertilizers.
37277-4 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL KEBEDE WAKO
The Kebede Wako lot is a tart and zippy coffee that stood out on the cupping table as being one of the more acid-forward natural selections. If you’re looking for bright grape and tangy fruitiness, this is precisely the coffee you’ve been looking for. Even Axl Rose’s jeans would be taken aback by this acidity.
Kebede Wako started working with coffee on his family’s farm, and in 1984, his father gave him 19 hectares of land so that he could start his own farm. Kebede Wako was also selected as a model farmer, by the Worka coop. Besides coffee, he also grows false banana, avocado, orange, and shade trees on his farm.
37277-2 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL DANIEL MIJU
One of the more complex coffees on a table full of natural Ethiopians, the Daniel Miju lot brings plenty of tropical fruitiness and a solid tartness to match. On a more classic note, there’s a pervasive raspberry flavor that comes through clearly. Interestingly, herbal characteristics also come through loud and clear. Sage-like aromatics and thyme embellish this coffee in pleasantly unexpected ways.
Daniel Miju is now 70 years old, and a native to the Worka area. He has been involved with coffee before the Worka coop was formed, and had been working with coffee 10 years prior to its inception, transporting coffee to Yirgacheffe town with horses. He was selected as a model farmer by the Worka coop in 2014, and now sells his coffee through the YCFCU.
37276-1 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL BEDHATU JIBICHO
This lot from Bedhatu Jibicho is a very clean coffee that brings to mind fresh cherries and chocolate. Aromatics that I compared to juicy fruit led me to believe that this coffee would be much fruitier than it actually was; instead, this is a very balanced coffee with sparkling sweetness to match the clean fruit characteristics. The short finish on this coffee drew me in, and I ended up more caffeinated than I had planned for.
Bedhatu Jibicho is native to the Worka area, and has managed her farm since 1991 when her husband passed away. Many of those years, she managed the 23 hectare farm single-handedly. In 2011, she became a member of the Worka cooperative, but joined the Banko Gotiti coop shortly after in 2013 since it is much closer to her home. Bedhatu Jibicho has been part of the coffee business since she was young – her late husband received his land from the government in the 1960s.
37277-3 – ETHIOPIA YIRGACHEFFE GR 1 ORGANIC NATURAL ABERHAM JARSO
There was something nostalgic about this coffee. I had a hard time putting a finger on it until we started talking about childhood flavors at the cupping table. Someone said ‘blueberry syrup’ and that rang a bell – but for me it was the blueberry scented Mr. Sketch marker. Yes, I was that kid with a blue ink mustache because I loved the blue Mr. Sketch marker smell so much (even if it rates 6/12 on this website). This is bound to be a very jammy coffee at darker roast levels, and you won’t have a hard time finding delicious fruit notes in the Aberham Jarso lot.
Aberham Jarso is the first son of seven in his family. When he was married in 1991, his father gave him 6 hectares of land, half of which was planted with coffee and the other half left for development. He joined the Hasaro coop in 2008, and after five years was chosen as a model farmer. From his 6 hectares, he produces 6500kg of coffee per year. Aberham plans to gain enough capital from the coffee business to develop a hotel.