Two years ago, Max brought in a “tej” coffee from the Adado cooperative in Bule Kalisho, near Yirgacheffe town, and it was pure gold. This year, he found some more, at the Jet washing station in Kochere Hama. It’s nothing short of an absolute delight. Lush, ripe stone fruit notes including a distinct peach flavor and nuanced hints of pomegranate are layered on top of hibiscus, lavender and tea-like effervescence that make for a complex and unique cup. We’re thrilled to have it.
Jet washing station is run by Adulina Coffee company, established by Mahabub Awel who learned the coffee business from his father. In addition to coffee, Jet has a school for children, potable water well on site, and a staff agronomist to support the efforts of local smallholders increasing their productivity, quality, and intercropping.
For this microlot, Jet has employed a technique quite similar to what Central American farms have been calling honey process. Using minimal water for depulping using an eco-pulper, the coffee is neither washed nor pile fermented, but simply taken directly from the depulper to the drying tables, where workers regularly and actively turn the coffee to ensure it dries evenly.
For this reason, we’ve elected to dub the lot “Tej” processed. It’s a play on the naming convention we’ve seen for these pulped hybrid process coffees. In Ethiopia, tej is a very local, very common sweet and sour libation not unlike mead, created by fermenting honey then aging and adding herbs and spices. We felt this was appropriate nomenclature, given the unconventional processing method and nod to a distinctly Ethiopian product. ለጤናችን (Leutanachen / Cheers!)
You’d never guess this coffee was honey (tej) processed by the prep. Its clean, polished green appearance keeps a lid on the fact that the parchment was dried in mucilage. The coffee is high in density, very small in size, and has a surprisingly high water activity for an Ethiopian raised bed coffee.
Ethiopia’s genetic diversity of coffee is no secret, but increased attention is being paid to distinguishing cultivars and varieties, thanks in part to the work undertaken by Tim Hill and Getu Bekele. Established in the 1960s, the Jimma Agricultural Research Center was instrumental in selecting, breeding, and distributing scores of cultivars throughout the country in the decades following Haile Selassie’s downfall. These have included region-specific varieties, specialty cultivars, and hybrids and wild selections made for disease resistance.
I was pretty excited to brew this Ethiopian Crown Jewel. Using the Phoenix 70 from Saint Anthony Industries (which is taller and narrower than the V60) allowed the coffee to spend more time in contact with the brew water, while SAI’s Perfect Paper Filters produced a super clean cup. The narrow angle of the P70 dripper leads to longer dwell time, and since this coffee has low density and was packed full of flavor, I didn’t want to over-extract. With the EK43 on grind setting 8.5, I started with a 1:16 ratio recipe using 25g of coffee and 400g of brew water. I stirred my 50g bloom dose aggressively for the first 10 seconds – the shape of the P70 can lead to more pockets of untouched coffee in the bloom phase, so be sure to stir thoroughly when using this method.
This first brew took a total of 4:40, a little too long for my preference, but the flavor notes were incredible: peach, mango, blackberry, black tea, bergamot, almond, and clove. Although it tasted delicious, and had a relatively acceptable TDS of 1.38, there was a slightly drying finish. Interested in seeing what a lower extraction tasted like, I coarsened my grind a half notch on the EK 43 to 9 and tried the same recipe again. Many of the same berry notes remained, but there was a significant increase in floral notes like orange blossom, as well as pear, and fig to compliment the array of fascinating and delicious flavors.