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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ethiopian coffees are back!

Some of you may have noticed a decline in our Ethiopian coffee offerings over the last couple of years. Ethiopia is in fact one of the countries in our logo, so you would think we would pay extra attention to those coffees. While Ethiopians tend to be some of our favorite coffees, there are a few reasons why we have chosen to buy very few over the last couple of years.

The first, and biggest reason is the Homogenizing of Ethiopian coffee by the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange. The ECX separated coffee into regions as opposed to farms, and prohibited all direct farm-to-buyer sales (other than coops and ECX lots). What this did was cut off access to the tracking and sale of small excellent unblended lots and commoditize the uniqueness of these small lots into large lots of average specialty quality.

The second reason we avoided buying Ethiopians was the ‘C’ market price jump of 2 years ago. This made coffee that was normally in the mid $3 range cost over $5 in some cases. Coffee that is both more expensive and of lower quality is never a good combination. These factors made us put our resources and time into Central America.  

The good news is both of these things are no longer issues. The quality and availability of farm direct Ethiopian coffee is now better than ever. We are seeing new regions like Western Ethiopia, Jimma, Kaffa, and new varieties (actually very old) like Abyssinia. Abyssinia is an old typica variety that was brought to Indonesia in the 1920’s. Expect to see a great increase in the number of offerings from Ethiopia roasted by us, and a greater range in flavor in those offerings than ever before. We have started you off with a classic Sidama that is bursting with florals, with a nice underlying meyer lemon and touch of berry. The sorting is exceptionally clean on this coffee so for once you shouldn’t have to worry about too many defects.

One interesting thing about this coffee is the fermentation. It is given a 72 hour soak for fermentation then vigorously agitated to remove the mucilage. Finally, the coffee is soaked overnight in clean water, washed, then dried on raised beds. This is the classic method in Sidama and Yirgacheffe but contrary to the way fermentation and drying is done in Central America. For example, at Hacienda Santa Rosa coffee is depulped then dry fermented for 48 hours then washed and dried on a concrete patio.

We wanted to explain some of the reasoning behind our buying decisions since washed Ethiopias are some of the most interesting coffees you can taste and we had all but phased them out. Enjoy the Deri Kochoha and look forward to even more really great Ethiopian coffees.