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This is a traditional natural coffee from Worka Sakaro, Ethiopia, produced by Marta Alemu, whose coffee is featured this year as a single-farmer lot for the first time.
The flavor profile is both silky-smooth and delicate, offering notes of sweet peaches, strawberries, raspberry, and creamy milk chocolate.
Our roasters found the dense, dry coffee to need heat during the drying stage but to benefit from a gentler approach during Maillard and into First Crack.
When brewed a slightly lower extraction percentage impressed with complex fruitiness, elegant sweetness, and a creamy viscosity.
Taste Analysis by Chris Kornman
In the midst of a flurry of Ethiopian coffee arrivals in August and September, it’s still surprising and refreshing to come across a coffee like this. On the cupping table, the coffee immediately jumped out from the pack, offering a unique combination of silky, smooth notes like milk chocolate and vanilla, while simultaneously surprising us with its delicate light peach, raspberry, and melon flavors. On more developed production roasts, the coffee offers a plethora of juicy strawberry notes, bright cherry, and nectarine. Above all, it is an immediately sweet coffee, the kind that sticks with you a little after you’ve finished the cup.
This is the kind of coffee that you begin to appreciate more and more as you revisit it. While it’s certainly elegant and interesting on first try, the experience deepens with repeated visits, adding layers of nuance which are a pleasure to unfold.
Source Analysis by Mayra Orellana-Powell
The creation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) in 2008 significantly limited full traceability back to specific farmers. In response, Royal established the Single Farmer Lots Program to separate single farmer lots from the larger cooperative blends sold through the ECX.
The foundation for directly purchasing single farmer lots began in 2012. Yearly farm visits from Royal CEO Max Nicholas-Fulmer and regular communication with farmers through Haile Andualem, Royal’s representative on the ground in Ethiopia, has been an essential component for ensuring that farmers and washing stations are following strict farm management and post-harvest protocols. The results have been an ever-increasing number of 89+ lots with higher returns for the individual producers.
Marta Alemu Kanke cultivated this single farmer lot on her 6-acre farm near the town of Worka Sakaro located in the heart of the coveted Gedeb growing region. Marta grew up helping her father cultivating coffee and only recently started her own farm. This is the first year, with the help of the single lot program, that she has been able to sell her coffee as a micro-lot. Coffee is Marta’s main source of income that she uses to support her family of 10.
Ripe cherries for this natural processed coffee were carefully hand sorted and floated to remove less dense and damaged coffee beans. Next the cherries were dried on raised beds for 15 to 20 days and turned regularly to avoid over-fermentation and mold. Raised beds are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control, for optimal drying. Cherries were covered during the afternoons to prevent harsh drying in the intense sun. Once the cherries have dried to 11 percent moisture, they were transported to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to be milled and prepared for export.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
This exciting and very delicious natural coffee from Marta Alemu is a really nice example of a classically graded high end natural from Ethiopia. Smallish in size with a pretty clean and small spread, mostly 15-16 sizes, we’re also met with high density and low moisture figures. All around a great looking coffee to work with as it should have a nice long shelf life in good green coffee storage conditions and perform predictably in the roaster.
While there are certainly true heirloom coffees grown in much of Ethiopia, it’s also true that a relatively small number of highly controlled cultivars — both lab-crafted hybrids and selected landraces — are often the main components of specialty coffees throughout the nation. The selections have not been denoted here for us, but it’s fair to assume they are similar stock to the greater southern coffee regions, hearty and well adapted for cultivation in this, one of the world’s most coveted terroirs.
Diedrich IR-5 Analysis by Chris Kornman
Starting out with a well defined roast plan can sometimes make or break the difference in a first trial roast of a coffee. In this case, some of the keys to setting up a successful and delicious coffee included defined start temperatures, initial gas and airflow settings, and a target Colortrack and time after first crack.
Essentially what I hoped to do was balance the dry, dense metrics (which should require a good deal of heat energy) with the delicate, natural processing flavor of a fine Ethiopian coffee (in which I prefer to emphasize sweetness and viscosity over acidity).
Thus I charged the drum on the hot side at 390F with 50% airflow but with an idle 30% burner power. This allowed the coffee to achieve a nice low dip on turnaround but have sufficient momentum not to lag after turning up the burners to 85%. I held this course until color change was apparent, when I opened the airflow fully and dropped the gas quickly in two successive changes. By the 5:00 mark the coffee was nicely on pace and I felt good about trying to extend Maillard and reach first crack with a low RoR under 10F / minute.
At this point, the threat of a stalled roast and baked coffee were imminent. Critics of this style may note the shape of the curve and the dip in late thermal delta and point to a crash.
I’d suggest keeping an open mind, as we know well from experience that these types of dense, natural Ethiopias tend to fly like a bat out of hell given too much energy at first crack. Thus, a gentle endgame with a balanced, low flame and easy ride for 90+ seconds will yield a much more pleasurable, sweet cup with uncharred fruit notes. This roast colortracked at a light/medium 54.5 internal (despite the very low end temperature) and showed off a much darker 63.5 external color, the high difference there pointing to a full avoidance of any potential “baking.”
Proof, as always, is in the cup, and this is one heck of a cup. Immediately fragrant on grounds and the break, the brew brought on candied fruits like strawberries and cherries and even the coveted “starburst” (which color is your favorite?). The coffee is incredibly sweet and effortlessly clean with a silky, smooth body.
With coffees like these, you can usually count on a tasty roast, even with some minor missteps. I’d encourage you to play around a little, but you can always come back to this profile as a kind of baseline: bump up your gas settings between turnaround and Maillard, then back off and stretch the end with a nice low rate of rise at first crack to avoid this high density bean from running away from you at the end.
Quest M3s Analysis by Evan Gilman
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 200g batch size, and begin roasting when I’ve reached my desired charge temperature. Read my initial post here and my updated post here.
Sometimes a coffee is just so smooth that the cup disappears without a trace. Marta Alemu has achieved such a cup here, and while I watched the level of delicious brew dwindle seemingly on its own, I knew from the lingering deliciousness that I was indeed the one drinking this coffee so quickly. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s take a look at how this coffee performed in the roaster.
This coffee is quite dense, very dry, and incredibly well sorted into the smaller 15/16 screen. I did want to start this out with a push as I have with many of the super-dense Ethiopian coffees we have released lately, and I started off with a charge temperature of 390F and 10A heat application, with full fan. Turning off the fan just before turning point, I allowed this coffee to soak up the energy in the barrel until reintroducing airflow to 3 at 230F / 2:15. This coffee turned around very quickly. Shortly afterwards, I attenuated the heat application to 7.5A at 275F / 3:10, and increased fan speed to full at 300F / 3:50. This coffee needed no prompting, and I reduced heat further to 5A at 335F / 4:55, and to 0A at first crack which occurred at 386F / 7:36. My rate of rise descended in a smooth diagonal for this roast, and I spent exactly 42% of time in both green and Maillard stages, a personal goal of mine. The remaining 16% of the roast was spent in post-crack development at a low delta, and my final temp rested at the lower end of the spectrum, 394F.
The most remarkable smells emanated from this coffee during roasting. The green smelt of rustic tropical wood houses and furniture I’ve encountered, with a hint of kocho (think fermenty in a pleasant way). During drying, that smell was amplified into an almost Parmesan quality; deliciously umami, but not something I’m used to smelling in coffee. These smells did not carry into the final flavor at all.
In the cup, this coffee was just smoother than smooth. Beyond the buttery texture, this coffee is full of fruit, sweet and clean. Any fermenty notes from my nose were completely subsumed by the clean blueberry and ripe strawberry aftertaste of this coffee. Think jammy and sweet, with quaffability levels over 9000. Then top that with some hot chocolate, and maybe a little peach cobbler on the side. Drink abundantly, and drink with confidence!
Brew Analysis by Nate Lumpkin
I went ahead and brewed this coffee on the Hario V60 and Bee House, two brew devices we’ve been using a lot here at the Crown. These are both reliable and easy to use, so I was confident this new natural-processed coffee from Ethiopia was going to taste great. For both brews I used our standard pour-over recipe of 18g of coffee and 300g of water, for a ratio of 1:16.6, which I find produces a sweet, light, and expressive cup, regardless of the coffee used.
On V60, this coffee brewed through in 3:23, and produced a TDS of 1.3 and an overall extraction of 18.6%, all average results for a coffee like this. In the cup however this coffee absolutely blew me away! It had a strong aroma of nectarine and caramel, with intense juicy fruit notes of ripe nectarine, blueberries, peaches, crisp apple, and fresh cut yellow peach. I also tasted caramel and vanilla, a hint of violet florality, and a heavy dark chocolate finish, with a creamy body reminiscent of ice cream. In short, this cup was amazing, and I ended up chugging the whole thing even though it was 3 in the afternoon.
On Bee House, it brewed through in 3:29, with a slightly higher TDS of 1.37 and an extraction of 19.51%. This makes sense, given the Bee House’s somewhat more restricted flow, which I imagine could produce a higher extraction overall. This brew had a milder aroma, with notes in the cup of grilled peaches, nectarine, fresh walnut, marshmallow, milk chocolate, a heavy body, and a subtle floral note reminiscent of magnolia. The overall experience reminded me of rocky road ice cream! Though I thought this was a delicious brew, my preference is for the Hario as a clear winner. I suspect that this coffee just really shines at lower extractions, where its cleanliness and complex fruits can express themselves.