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We’ve been watching the press recently, and Ethiopia is in turmoil.
The latest news is that violence in Sidama has cost dozens of lives as security forces sought to suppress protests as the regional ethic group sought official recognition by the government.
This follows on the heels of more bad news from Guji and Gedeb, where ethnic violence displaced hundreds of thousands. Such bad news is especially disconcerting as much of the reports the west has seen in recent months from Ethiopia has been positive: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was generally seen as a youthful reformist with a progressive and inclusive agenda, but the country’s inability to curb ethnic violence belies problems much deeper. A Slate article noted recently how the situation “brings to mind Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous warning that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it starts to reform.
Especially disconcerting for coffee buyers is that this violence and mass displacement is taking place right in the heart of Ethiopia’s southern coffeelands. As if coffee growing weren’t difficult enough – beset by climate change, diseases like roya or CBD, and chronically low NY”C” Market prices, farmers in Gedeb and Guji must struggle with the reality of a humanitarian crisis.
This coffee, from the Denbi Uddo neighborhood of Shakiso district in the Guji Zone, is from the heart of the affected area. We’ve been working with Testi Trading, a family-owned export business for many years and have come to expect high standards from the washing stations they partner with. This Denbi Uddo, a regular on Royal’s menu, is one of our perennial favorites. While washed coffees from Denbi Uddo in years past have earned high marks and a spot in the Crown Jewel lineup, this season the natural caught our attention. It’s bold, rich, and full of ripe blackberry, hints of blueberry and jasmine with a few whispers of clean Lillet Blanc or Pinot Noir.
We’re thrilled with the quality, and hopeful that by supporting coffee growers with sustainable wages and investing in long-term relationships that we can play a small part in a region that desperately deserves a win.
Small screen size, but high density and super-stable moisture and water activity. Sounds like another exceptional prep Ethiopia! This lot was designated as a grade 1 based on physical and sensorial evaluation on location in Addis prior to export, a relative rarity, but one that’s been recognized in recent years for natural coffees for the first time. It indicates the highest tier of quality and can help to set a minimum price at the ECX auction.
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 Getu Bekele and Tim Hill. Established in the 1960s, the Jimma Agricultural Research Center was instrumental in selecting, breeding, and distributing scores of cultivars throughout the country, and the JARC, along with the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute maintain two of the world’s most important and extensive gene banks for arabica. Their distributed cultivars have included region-specific selections, specialty cultivars developed for optimal flavors, and hybrids engineered for disease resistance.
Thus, I’ve begun to shy away from the term “heirloom” in most cases, as it does a disservice to the wide array of genetic variation and significant work steeped in Ethiopia’s forests and mountains. Many so-called “indigenous heirloom varieties” are in fact hybrids or selected cultivars. That being said, there’s probably a sense in which many Ethiopian cultivars have indeed been passed down generationally through the hands of small farmers, preserving locally unique genetic material. Most plant biologists prefer to use the term “landrace” to describe these types of local selections, born of circumstance or necessity.
We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor.
Doris Garrido, barista and Ikawa roaster, took a spin on the machine this week, applying a profile she developed using a baseline airflow profile I created for natural coffees. Her temperature curve adds about an extra minute of post-crack development, up to nearly two full minutes, yet remains fairly flatline in terms of the heat delta. What some might dismiss as a stall here is counteracted by a gradually lowered airflow pattern, thus continuing to push the coffee through sugar browning using a bit of additional conduction instead of convection, all the while not registering as a higher temperature.
Cupping notes included copious berries, lavender, concord grape, bergamot, dark chocolate, and a hint of toast. Truth be told, as a sample roast the additional development might not have been exactly ideal, but as a perfectly drinkable and enjoyable cup of coffee, Doris’ roast hit the mark quite nicely. It’s reasonable to expect this high-density natural coffee to respond well to a variety of roast levels and styles.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Royal CK 6m425 NatEthiopia /DG
Working in coffee can mean days filled with frustration and sadness as much as those filled with delight and joy. The nature of the coffee supply chain involves much hardship at, arguably, the hardest and least rewarded end of that chain – the beginning. Hearing, as we have been, of the heartbreaking violence and discord currently at a boiling point in Ethiopia, Sidama in particular, but also in other well-known and loved coffee growing regions such as Gedeb and Guji and the country as a whole, is incredibly difficult. I immensely grateful, then, as I am, no matter the origin, for the gift that coffee brings and the light it can shine on the hardships being faced by those who toil the most for the least reward.
This week’s stellar example of an impeccably processed natural coffee is from the Guji zone. It is from this region that we are gifted this delicious and robustly complex and generously giving coffee. A pleasure to roast and even more so to drink, I had to do very little to receive as much as we did in the cup. This coffee is dense, with a moderate moisture content. I started this coffee at a slightly lower charge than usual, but made sure to make up for it with a high gas application. Stepping down at the color change and just before and after first crack, gave me a longer Maillard phase and a PCD ratio of 14%. Nothing more was necessary. The coffee roasted itself, for the most part, giving me gorgeous aroma cues from the trier.
The dry fragrance was intense and intoxicating, much like the cup itself. With notes of bittersweet chocolate and black tea, this coffee is sweetened by fruit notes of blackberry, fresh apricot, raspberry jelly and orange. The lovely florality of vanilla and jasmine blossom, sometimes dampened by the body and sweet sugary notes that are characteristic of a naturally processed coffee, shone through distinctly. Lemon and lime acidity was matched with a pinot noir note that deepened the experience of the whole cup and had us dreaming of a delicious morning pour over (that I made a reality the very next day!).
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Quest roasts. Generally, I’ll allow the machine to warm up for 15 minutes until my environmental temperature reading is at least 250F, weigh out 150g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here.
Cognitive dissonance abounds as we forge through this year’s immaculate arrivals from Ethiopia. The awful news coming out of Ethiopia right now is in extreme counterpoint to the delicious coffees we are receiving from the very same area. This particular lot is perhaps (in my humble opinion) the most delicious so far, and happens to come from the epicenter of the violence in southern Ethiopia.
My roast of this coffee was fairly typical, if a bit fast. While my charge temperature was on the low side for the Quest (388F), as was my environmental temperature (265F at charge) this coffee took on heat readily. I have made a habit of opening the back of the roaster at (or slightly before) turning point in order to decrease airflow and push the coffee through drying.
This worked a bit too well, and I had trouble slowing the coffee down through Maillard, even though I decreased heat application to 7.5A at 3:30/318F, and increased fan speed to full at 3:50/330F. I turned off heat application entirely at 4:40/362F, and was met by a resoundingly loud crack at 5:03/375F. 1:33 of development gave me 23.5% post-crack development – a new record, especially as my drop temperature was 400F. A nice slow easing into post-crack development.
On the cupping table, this coffee veritably sparkled. Apricot, bergamot, concord grape, strawberry, and orange blossom came through as the coffee opened up. I really couldn’t ask for more from this coffee, and I’m unsure that coffee could give any more than what is in this cup. This is a highly recommended coffee for any preparation method, and even for folks who aren’t into natural coffees.
Summer has always meant super delicious coffees, for me, especially from Ethiopia! Natural processed coffees like this one are just so much fun to drink, and I typically try to get my hands on as many as possible and drink them every which way. Having tasted this coffee at multiple stages already, I knew it was going to be delicious, so I decided to keep things simple and brew up two Chemex’s. For the first, I used a 1:14 ratio to offer a glimpse of this coffee’s potential to folks who prefer a stronger cup. The second cup, I kept at 1:16, as that is a useful reference point for coffee drinkers and professionals alike. As usual, the Chemex resulted in a somewhat extended brew time compared to other devices, which in turn cranked up the TDS and extraction accordingly.
Both of these cups were absolute stunners! The stronger brew featured lots of punchier, jammy notes like strawberry, blueberry, apricot, and melon. The second cup, with the slightly lower brew ratio, opened up a little bit more and had lighter fruit notes and more florality. We tasted jasmine, bergamot, nectarine, lemon, brown sugar, honey, and milk chocolate with a juicy finish! There’s not too much to say about brewing this coffee; I’m sure no matter how you do, it will be delicious! I’m tempted to brew another cup at 1:18, take a seat at one of the tables outside The Crown, and nurse this cup all day long!