Out of the fourteen countries we explore to keep our range tasting sweet, clean and fresh throughout the year, Ethiopia remains the origin we source most coffee from. It's hard to pick a favourite, but when hard-pressed by friends, family or journalists, it's likely we'd say Ethiopia and, in particular, coffees from Yirgacheffe. As well as being reliably clean, sweet, delicate and aromatic, we find the great lots from Yirgacheffe and other highland areas of Ethiopia usually take several months to become fully expressive. Hence waiting until we're into Autumn to release our first Ethiopian coffee of the season; one of four we selected after visiting Ethiopia earlier this year.
Towards the end of January, we spent around eight hours driving south from Addis Ababa, through the town of Dilla, to arrive in the dusty, rustic landscape of Yirgacheffe, home to some of our favourite coffees to come out of Ethiopia. One of our importing partners, Nordic Approach, has a sister company called Tropiq who operate on the ground in several countries in which they have a strong focus, including Ethiopia. We cupped plenty of very fresh coffee samples, but also toured with Tropiq to meet some of the people behind the coffees we bought last year, as well as potential new partnerships we could form this year. Within Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples Region (SNNPR) lies the Gedeo zone, encompassing Yirgacheffe town.
As Yirgacheffe is so famed for producing high-quality coffee, it is often the case that traceability stops there; you're buying coffee from Yirgacheffe, and that's all you need to know! There are, however, many distinct woredas and kebeles (small townships and communes), co-operatives and washing stations producing their own unique coffees within Yirgacheffe. One such station that we visited was Haru, which is running in collaboration with the Kanketi group who also oversees the operation of six other washing stations in the area, and tend to their own coffee farm named Foge. At the Haru washing station, coffee grown by 477 small-scale farmers from the local kebele is delivered to the mill to be depulped with an Agaarde disc pulper before fermenting underwater for between 36 and 72 hours, depending on the weather conditions. After the sugars in the fruit mucilage have broken down and the coffee feels clean, it is washed and scrubbed before being soaked in freshwater for up to 12 hours. It is then slowly dried on raised beds for up to 21 days.
The smallhold farmers themselves are growing traditional, local varieties as well as improved landrace selections, notably Kurume, Dega and Wolisho. Whilst they may apply some organic fertiliser to their plants, it is not common practice to cut the trees back, with Kanketi and their outgrowers obtained organic certification in 2018. The high altitude at which the cherries are grown and processed means that everything happens slowly, from cherry maturation through to fermentation and drying. These slow processes may go some way to explaining why the flavour profile takes more time to develop and bloom, as well as more time passing before the coffee fades. Delivering bags of sweetness and aromatics, we're finding this espresso from Haru to create complex black drinks and characterful yet balanced milk drinks. Enjoy!
Yirgacheffe, Gedeo Zone, SNNPR, Ethiopia
Layered & elegant, look for notes of peach, blueberry & magnolia. In milk it reminds us of apricot jam on toast.