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.
Nestled in the mountains of Jinotega, where the clouds find themselves resting atop the peaks, you find the municipality of Laguna Verde. This is the place where the Mierisch family has been growing coffee since the 1930’s. Displaced by war in the 1980’s, the family has returned to help lead a quality focused approach to producing some of the best coffee in Nicaragua. Understanding that you get back what you put into your work, the Mierisch family goes the extra mile to have greater rewards. Amongst their different farms, they provide housing and meals to the families working the crops, higher wages, free healthcare, free daycare for the kids, and even continuing farming education to empower the staff.
The land has a natural canopy of shade trees adding to the lush ecosystem that grows a diverse array of plant life. The water is cleaned and recycled back into the land, while all process waste is used as organic mulch for crops. This helps enrich the land they use, resulting in a harmonious interaction between nature and cultivation.
Javanica is a rare and partially unknown varietal that has history around the world. Referred to as “Java” by a coffee research laboratory that was experimenting with a seed exchange in the 1980’s, this coffee has the characteristics of Ethiopian descent. Low yielding, non-disease resistant, elongated seed shape, and the branch pattern growing from the trunk are all signs of Ethiopian varietals. Java is known to be planted with Typica, originally from Ethiopia, but is also known for Robusta and crosses of the two, like Catimor. Wherever it comes from, it has found a home in Nicaragua.
This Javanica is a delicate flower. Reminiscent of a lemon shortbread, this coffee is a real treat. Orange blossom honey, milk chocolate, and nougat, the flavors float like the clouds that visit the farm. The sweetness is lifted with a mild citrus zest and distant florals follow the chocolate whipped cream body. La Huella, the footprint, will dance across your palate.
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.