Coffee review: Rocket Coffee Company Ethiopian Sidamo

by on June 8, 2006

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.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Africa,Coffee reviews

Jon Palombi June 14, 2006 at 11:53 pm

At the prompting of a good friend, I sampled Rocket Coffee Roasters organic Ethiopian Sidamo. I just figured it would be the new "roast of the month…" I was happy to find it clean and robust. The aroma., flavor, and acidity, all balanced harmoniously. I was taken with the thought that the independant American Coffee Roasters are really doing the same thing that the mico-brewers did for beer, giving the people an alternative. Something of substance and quality.
Why is it that the big guys care more about profits than premium quality? You have to take your hat-off to the companies that give a damn about what their customers expreience drinking a cup of their coffee.
I give those guys a thumbs-up. As always, thanks for providing avenues for people who give-a-damn about what goes into their bodies.

Yours truly, Jon Palombi

BirdBarista June 15, 2006 at 6:48 am

Jon – Your comparison of microbrewers to microroasters is apt. It's my hope that if the general public is educated about coffee — not just sustainability but that there even is such as thing as great tasting coffee beyond the generic crap they're used to drinking — that demand will rise and more people will turn to the independent roasters. Maybe the big guys will also realize there are profits to be made from quality coffee, although I don't think their "infastructure" is capable of producing it.

Thanks for stopping by. There are coffee reviews coming up in the coming weeks on Nicaraguan, Timorese, and another Ethiopian coffee.

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