Ethiopia is the oldest coffee consuming culture. It is the birthplace of coffee, where it grew wild within the forests of the western regions. There is more regional distinction here than anywhere else. With around 150 different languages spoken, tribal separation and customs, as well as the effects of living in such drastically different landscape, coffee seems to be the common thread that holds all of Ethiopia together. Each region, each zone, each woreda (district) is as individual as the next. Part of this is the trees themselves. I refer to the varietal as "Native Selection”, because each area prides itself on the taste of their land. The coffee that has been growing there for hundreds of years is replanted year after year to maintain this taste. “Heirloom”, “Landrace”, and “Wild” are used in absence of a cultivated varietal. Location is also used as a name for the type of plant grown.
So, in the Sidama region, of the Guji Zone, of the Kercha woreda, lies Inshe, where this coffee grows. The people are members of the Guji Oromia tribe and live a very rural, coffee focused life. They have joined together with the Oromia Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Union and localized washing stations to process, represent and sell their coffees. With a few hundred members, each with at most a half hectare of land growing coffee, the lots are separated by the waves of harvested cherries as they come into the washing station. Processing is done with disc depulping, fermentation under water for up to 48 hours, washing in long corrugated channels and drying on raised beds. This is Ethiopia.
Kercha is a beautiful expression of youthful exuberance. Aromas of rose and eucalyptus turn into whispers of floral tea and meyer lemon. This coffee explodes with the juiciness of honey dew, mango, nectarine, and even golden raspberry. It starts with a splash that transforms to focus on the syrupy feel of melon and and floating aspects of a fine oolong. Through the florals and fruit, you’ll find this dream anchored with a delightful hazelnut cream and gingersnap cookie. Sure to lift your head up into the clouds, you will be pleased as these flavors linger around.
In the heart of Southern Colombia’s coffee region, where Huila meets Tolima and Cuaca, we find some of the most treasured micro-climates nestled within the creases of the Andes mountains. This area is home to Colombia’s highest volcano at 5,364 meters, Navedo del Huila. Guadualito is a village with less than 10 structures scattered about amongst the emerald sea of coffee trees. That’s it! Hidden between Santa Maria and Palermo in Huila, we find Saul and Jose producing some of the finest coffee in the area. They tend to their farm planted with Caturra and Colombia varietals at 1700 meters above sea level. Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety that formed in Brazil in the late 1930’s. Smaller, more compact, and higher yielding, Caturra was introduced into Colombia in 1952 and was widely accepted by most farmers by 1960. Today, nearly 45% of all coffee grown in Colombia is Caturra. The Colombia varietal was released in 1982 after five generations of successful crossings of Caturra and Hybrid of Timor, resulting in a high yielding coffee that shows resistance to coffee leaf rust. Rich in history, lush in agriculture, and steeped in tradition and culture, Huila is a shining example of the possibilities that the land and the people have respectfully working together from one generation to the next.
As diverse as the landscape, this coffee has quite the range of flavors. Refreshing tart plum and tamarind provides a juicy start that falls into a rich and buttery body, like pecan sandies. As the coffee cools, it opens up to show honeysuckle blossom and red currant floating through the finish. You’ll think you had cookies for breakfast.
Cruz Grande is a two-producer lot from Santa Barbara, one of the lowest income municipalities in Huehuetenango. Most producers in this area grow less than one hectare of coffee which is often bought by coyotes, someone who shows up at harvest time to offer a small amount of money for one’s cherries. Due to the difficulties of bringing coffee from the farm to the receiving stations, which can be an hour or two drive away, the cash can seem like the best option available. These are then blended with coffees from various other areas into large generic ‘Huehuetenango’ lots. Being able to keep these lots separate offers us a chance to taste to beautiful individuality of the distinct micro-climates of these mountainous regions.
Isabel Gomez and Roberto Garcia have a small amount of Bourbon, Caturra and Pache (a Typica mutation) growing in heavy clay soil along steep slopes at elevations of 2100 masl. Processing is rustic: the coffee is manually de-pulped before being fermented in a wooden tank for 27 hours. The coffee is then scrubbed in channels to remove the remaining mucilage and laid out to dry on a small patio. The drying process is slowed due to the shade provided by the steep hills surrounding it, as well as the cool nights of such high elevation. Working together, they have produced this lot that totals only 600lbs.
Though the lot size is small, the flavor is huge! It’s hard to believe that this is a fully washed coffee with the intensity of fruit present. Ripe peach, plum, and pineapple nectar pop with the lively sweetness. This is clean fresh fruit that cascades into a finish of macadamia and toffee. It's fruit juice candy sparkle. It’s clean, plump, and loud. A true delight.