Coffee review: Counter Culture Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Ambessa

by on July 6, 2006

Plainspoken Coffee. A Coffee Review for Ordinary People by Ordinary People, #4.

The coffee: Mark Overbay of Counter Culture Coffee was kind enough to include a bag of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Ambessa with my last order. Yirgacheffe is an area in the southern Ethiopian Sidamo region. Like most other Ethiopians, it is grown on small, diverse forest plots, organic and shade grown. Beans here are said to be small and elongated, with a unique flavor. This coffee is wet processed, then sun dried.

The beans: The roast was lighter than we’ve seen in other Ethiopians, with some chaff still showing in the crack of the beans, a medium roast or city/city+.

Brewed: We were expecting huge, complex flavors after the Rocket Sidamo, but that was a dry-processed coffee.  This coffee was far more subtle, with flavors than just danced on the tongue and melted away.  While most of us found it bright, clean with a touch of wine or citrus, the flavors were so fleeting it was a little hard for us amateurs to get a handle on them.  It lingered a bit, with a buttery mouthfeel.  Star[bucks]ling was the first to distinctly taste raw honey.

This coffee might be better as espresso, as indicated by messages on the Home Barista Forum. bread coffee chocolate yoga also struggled a bit to get all the fruit flavors in the cup brewing the Ambessa, although she used a Chemex and french press, not a drip.  We are sorry that we didn’t try it as espresso, and that due to our conflicting schedules we were unable to sample it until nine days past roasting.

Other opinions:
Yirgacheffe coffee is often described as having jasmine and other floral notes, and being sweet and honey-like. The Counter Culture description reads:

The pronounced lemon-blossom-honey flavor is accompanied by other tropical fruit flavors, like mango. The floral character of this coffee is overwhelming, and brings to mind roses and honeysuckle. The fruity nature and light body of this coffee make it the perfect summer coffee.

bread coffee chocolate yoga used the terms winey, tea-rose floral,  citrus, and carmelly-honey-syrupy.   Sounds like we had the elements, although they were not as pronouced as we would have expected.

A Coffee Geek forum member found lemon blossoms, roses, and honeysuckle.

Bottom line: I came across a handy reminder at Coffee Cuppers: “Great coffees come in two varieties: those which taste like coffee, and those which don’t.”  These are considered classic coffees.  We considered the Ambessa a classic coffee.  At least for us, it didn’t have a lot of unusual flavors or characteristics, but it was a very enjoyable cup. We’re rating this 3 motmots.

When to drink this coffee (field oriented): Our association with raw honey indicates this is a bright brew to enjoy after a day at the bee hives harvesting the summer crop of honey.  Do not try drinking through a bee suit.  It just plain doesn’t work.

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Revised on August 15, 2012

Posted in Africa,Coffee reviews

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