This delightful micro-lot is from the borderlands of Southern Ethiopia. The woreda of Chelelektu is right on the border of Gedeo (the zone containing the town of Yirgacheffe) and Guji (a zone in the vast Oromia region). It’s so close to the border, and the divisions are so poorly defined, we don’t really know how to classify it! In terms of flavor, it has many of the Gedeo and Yirgacheffe hallmarks, so we’ve elected to denote it as such.
The mill itself has around 850 members, who average around 2000 coffee trees per farm. The Southern highlands are rife with coffee, both smallholders who contribute to local private mills or cooperatives, and larger landowners. Coffee is not just a crop in Ethiopia, it’s a way of life. Ethiopian coffee culture runs deep even in the rural farmlands, and it’s one of the only producing countries where coffee farmers roast and brew their own harvest.
Not unlike many of the other Ethiopian coffees we’ve highlighted this season, this Chelelektu is dry and dense. The variety is predominantly the unglamorously named 74-158, known locally as Kurume. It is one of many cataloged varieties indigenous to the country, and is characterized by it small size. About 80% of this lot screens out between 14 – 16.
No real surprises here on this coffee. My first roast (PR-0310) used a single boost to the heat after the turnaround, and yielded the lightest roast with very pleasant bright acidity and a light body. PR-0311 started a little hotter and ramped up the heat before Maillard reactions and again before first crack. The quick pace allowed me to back off dramatically as first crack got rolling, and yielded the top score on the cupping table, with plenty to love including exuberant floral notes, complex sweetness, and loads of stone fruits and citrus. Either approach would work well, depending on your preferred flavor profile, but I continue to favor the incremental and slightly aggressive heat application pre-crack for these dense washed Ethiopias.
My final roast (PR-0312) was an experiment to see what would happen without any heat adjustments. You can see I flatlined after first crack, around 9:30, but regained momentum slowly. I waited for four minutes after first crack to find second crack, without success, and finally resolved to drop the coffee in the cooling tray. It cupped poorly, very toasty throughout with a lot of savory herbal notes, though the sweetness remained intact, a testament to the resilience of these ultra-dense coffees. Would this roast make a palatable espresso? I asked Evan to pull some shots… read on.
As Chris mentioned above, the first two roasts of this coffee were poppin’. Bright and floral with plenty of acid, both roasts jumped out of the cup and into our sensorium with the sort of alacrity usually reserved for spry woodland creatures. I hesitate to liken this coffee to a chipper chipmunk, but there you have it.
Look for tart tannic fruit notes in lighter roasts of this coffee; the florals you’ll experience at a lighter roast level are the sharper jasmine you would probably expect from this area of the world. Develop this coffee a bit more, and the juicy peach flavor that comes through will pair nicely with some fat basil notes and a lemon that just won’t quit. Honestly, I told the lemon to quit, and it just wouldn’t listen. Check out the chart below for our Chemex brews.
As it turned out, Chris was correct about the espresso – verily, it was a sugary espresso. This coffee is a flexible one, and if I were running a cafe I wouldn’t hesitate to put this coffee on as a single origin espresso, especially with a little more development.
Surprisingly, this coffee didn’t retain the many of herbal notes we tasted on the cupping table through into the espresso process. What did come through was the tart fruits we tasted at lower roast levels; whether this was a result of the coffee being exposed to a high pressure situation, or a very fine grind, I cannot be sure. What I do know is that the sugars came right through, hopping clear of herbal undergrowth. My personal favorite shot (shot number 3 below) resulted in incredibly clear sugars, tart and marshmallowy to the finish. Take a gander at the chart below for some espresso extraction parameters.