Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #2.
The main reason I launched the C&C tasting panel was because Larry of Rocket Coffee Roasters in Phoenix wrote to me and generously offered a sample for review. He sent an organic, Fair Trade Ethiopian Sidamo, roasted on May 25. It got delayed due to the holiday weekend, and we convened our first panel on June 1.
The coffee: Most coffee in Ethiopia is grown in shade, at least half in medium or heavy shade. I’m pretty sure all Ethiopian organic/FT coffees are from the Oromia cooperative, and all their coffees are said to be forest-grown. This is a dry-processed bean — I believe all the Ethiopians I’ve tasted so far have been washed. The dry processed beans are supposed to have more body and earthiness than their counterparts.
The beans: The roast looked a bit past full city, with a mix of some lighter beans in with the dark. For the life of me, I could not place the smell of the beans when we opened the bag. Star[bucks]ling immediately said, “Cherries!” Risky Kingbird thought it smelled sweet. I didn’t even think it smelled like coffee. It had a musty odor to me, which I later found out is not unusual in a dry process Ethiopian. Karen (“PhillyVireo”), a former coffee vendor, immediately identified it as an Ethiopian before we told her what it was.
Brewed: Piping hot, both Star[bucks]ling and Risky Kingbird thought it had a tea-llike taste. “It’s almost like having a tea bag in your coffee!” Star[bucks]ling said. Meanwhile, I was sort of speechless. This coffee was so distinct I didn’t know how to describe it. It only took a minute or two before the flavors developed and we all had the same Eureka moment: Berries. Lots and lots of full berry flavor. Risky Kingbird did not like the aftertaste, but the rest of us found it extremely nice, and very long lasting.
In a french press: None of us liked this coffee better in a french press. We found it mellower, but less distinctive; the berry flavor just didn’t come through. Several of us immediately tasted what we could only describe as cardboard (wood? paper?). Risky Kingbird, CrackedCorvid, and PhillyVireo thought it brighter as a french press, while Star[bucks]ling and I found it heavy.
More professional opinions: Rocket describes this bean as “A true and classic representation of the best Ethiopian. Blackberries, currants and deep, dark chocolate provide exotic flavor and a medium body.” A Sweet Marias review of a dry Sidamo described it as funky and a bit musty, or earthy with fresh leather (I think this was the “cardboard” smell/taste I detected. Coffee Review offers a nice discussion of characteristics of wet and dry processed Ethiopians.
Bottom line: Complex implies a variety of overlapping flavors, perhaps identifiable to more sophisticated drinkers. To us, “deep” seemed a better description, lovely fruity notes that began softly, climbed in intensity, then waned gracefully, lingered pleasantly — a smooth berry symphony. Maybe not an everyday coffee, but surely a good choice when you want something different.
We’re rating this 3.5 motmots; the average was a bit higher than that, but I can’t make any more fractional motmots.
When to drink this coffee (field oriented): Owing to the nice body and grand, fruity flavor, the Rocket Coffee Roaster’s Ethiopian Sidamo had a dessert feel to us. Drink it after a long day in the field, during the evening’s group meeting comparing notes and compiling data around a rough wooden table, with the coffee matching relaxed, satisfied, and mellow moods.