I am super excited to introduce you to this month's Magic Seeds, a cherry-dried coffee from Ethiopia's Suke Quto washing station. I have plenty to say about that, but first let's take a look at our Daily Drinker. This month we have the wonderful opportunity to taste two great coffees from the same country, but also to see what makes one exceptional.
Looking back at October's coffees, you will see some familiar faces, but expressed in a very different manner. Last month we had washed coffees from Wate Musuka and Bombe. This month we are tasting cherry-dried coffees from Suke Quto and Bombe.
Suke Quto was the first mill established by Tesfaye Bekele, years before opening Wate Musuka just last year. The processing difference speaks to how the coffee fruit is removed from the seeds. In washed processed coffee, like the October coffees, the fruit is fermented and washed completely off the seeds within the first two days after picking. In cherry-dried coffees, the fruit slowly dries on the seed over a few weeks before it is removed. This produces very different flavors in a cup, with washed coffees usually tasting more bright and clear, while cherry-dried coffees are known for their berry-like flavors.
Your November Daily Drinker comes from the village of Bombe in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. It comes from the 375 smallholder farmers who contribute to the Testi Ayala washing station. These farmers are growing primarily the Mikicho and Setami varieties, both of which are local heirlooms.
Last month I said washed Ethiopians were my "first loves" and that's very true; however, it was a cherry-dried Ethiopian that was the first coffee that made me pause and say "what is this?" I distinctly remember sharing a French Press of this style that tasted just like blueberry pie filling. Typically, these coffees are sweet, syrupy and full of berry flavors. This one, from Bombe's Testi Ayala station, initially tastes of strawberry bubblegum, with a creamy finish. As it cools it takes on chocolate milk and a slight coconut note - almost like an Almond Joy.
This month's Magic Seeds come from a collection of small farms contributing to the Suke washing station in the village of Odo Shakisso. Following the bush fires that plagued the area from 1997 to 1999, destroying over 5000 acres, Tesfaye saw an opportunity to replant these forests with coffee seedlings to increase diversity and provide an economic alternative for the people of the area. The mill now facilitates 171 outgrowers alongside the 200 seasonal workers that support the 221 hectares that Tesfaye owns.
Tesfaye focuses on environmentally friendly farming practices and the economical growth of the community. Suke Quto is Rain Forest Alliance and Organically certified. The washing station and mill were initially established to provide for the community returning to their devastated lands; the current goal is to revitalize the local schools with a new building in the neighboring village of Kurume.
As with the Daily Drinker, in this cup you will see a lot of berry flavors, but in a slightly different expression. The very first sip of this coffee tasted like wild strawberries with undertones of banana milkshake. This sweetness developed into more citric and floral notes, calling to mind the classic bergamot and jasmine flavors the region is known for. After cooling a little, there were notes of cranberry turning into blueberry; in fact it tasted exactly like the big blueberry gum balls from the quarter machine. In the end, the best dynamic of this coffee was its vibrancy. Often the cherry-dried process covers the delicate intricacies of a coffee. This lot of Suke Quto clearly showed through the classic flavors we knew from working with the washed lots over the past few years. Fully cooled, the cup took on almost a sparkling feel and tasted like a raspberry, hibiscus, and rose hip tea.
We hope that you have loved this month's Magic Seeds and look forward to sharing another exceptional experience with you next month.
image provided by Trabocca