Flavor Notes: Cantaloupe, Peach Syrup, Honeysuckle
Producer: Small-Holder Farmers
Region: Nansebo, Sidama, Ethiopia
Altitude: 1,900 masl
This coffee is a great representation of the Sidama flavor profile. A ton of peach, apricot and nectarine notes complemented by elegant floral notes and the pungent, tropical aroma of mango. This year's lot is also showing a lot of black tea in the cup.
Please read the following write-up from our partners in Ethiopia, Catalyst coffee. It's a beautiful write-up that should get you really excited to taste this beautiful coffee, which you should do at your first opportunity.
The village of Tulu Gola is an extremely remote location, nestled in the Tunse forest of West Arsi, Ethiopia. To travel to this area, one has to drive about 30 kilometers across a field… because there is no road. You’ll have to time your visit carefully, because in the rainy season, waist-deep mud will make travel impossible.
Assuming you hit the magic window of dry weather and cross the field, eventually you will catch up to a rough road and climb an immaculate landscape. Another 3 hours or so on the road, and you finally reach Tulu Gola, in the Nansebo District. Even still, you disembark the land cruisers and hike your way down the steep hill to the Zenebe Simbret Washing Station. It literally hangs on the slope that climbs out of the river at the bottom of the ravine. It is as if nature is harboring a remote coffee paradise, and chuckling at our wonder, every single time.
This is our third year purchasing coffee from Zeneba Genale, a delightful and hardworking Sidama man. Formerly the Quality Manager of the well respected Shanta Golba Cooperative in Bensa, Sidama, his experience and dedication to hard work and detail fortify a strong platform for an area of Ethiopia that is already producing inherently exceptional coffees. As an industry, we are just beginning to explore the dynamic range of flavor profiles that West Arsi coffees bring to our cups, and we hope to work closer with Zenebe in the coming years.
If you have the privilege of breaking bread with Zenebe, he will treat you like family. He is most proud of sharing the traditional Sidama breakfast: ground and fermented enset (false banana) root, and a lovely smoked milk that had been buried underground until it clotted and fermented a little like yogurt. (Zack breaking in here. I had the chance to have this breakfast with Zenebe last time I was in Ethiopia and it truly is unforgettable). Local herdsmen and coffee folks gather to share the breakfast and we laugh, drink coffee, and do our best to communicate, as these things always go.
Water plays a huge part in Tulu Gola, both practically and conceptually. Below, we talk further about the process of washing coffee in the water from the nearby river and waterfall. Zenebe’s name actually means Rain, Waterfall, River, which we find incredibly cool!
The rainy season in Tulu Gola is from March to November, after which time the coffee harvest kicks into gear. Sitting on four hectares of land, the washing station has a great beginning to quality standards. The pulping machine is McKinnon brand, with four disks, and is run by mechanic Biniam with fifteen years of experience. We are working with Zenebe to implement process controls like float tanks and increased fermentation and drying protocols. There is a natural airflow, given the positioning of the site on the hill. The cool breeze from the river gorge below ensure pretty consistent temperatures and air movement. This is used as an advantage for drying, because the steep hillside is quite difficult to climb.
THE COFFEE’S JOURNEY AT Tulu Gola
Producers deliver cherries to site:
With the liberation of the Ethiopian coffee sector in the 2016/2017 season, coffee producers no longer have to sell cherries at the local market. This has a number of direct benefits to the coffee producers. First, coffee brokerage has effectively been outlawed in Ethiopia. This became a very common practice throughout all of Ethiopia, and a natural reaction to the establishment of ECX and subsequent restrictions on buying and selling of coffee cherries.
Brokers would establish themselves as middle-people between producers and washing stations. The coffee cherries could only be sold by producers at the Primary Market level, which created multiple barriers to working directly with those same producers. Washing stations would have to work with Broker/Buyers at the Primary Market, and purchase cherries from them, rather than directly from producers. Inevitably, this model leads to easy corruption, where a washing station will try to pay premiums to producers for high quality cherries, and the majority of the premiums are simply pocketed by the Brokers. With the legislature passed in the 2016/2017 season, producers can again sell coffee cherries directly to washing stations, and can directly receive premiums.
Catalyst Trade sought to immediately seize the opportunity to participate in this direct structure with producers, and we pay premiums on all coffees we purchase. We pay a premium for high quality cherry acquisition and implementing float tanks. We pay another premium for implementation of our processing protocols, which include meticulous sorting and specialized experiments. We pay an additional premium for coffees exceeding an expected minimum cupping score. In addition to these premiums, we pay daily premiums at the dry mill, when we are processing all of our lots. This amounts to tripling the daily wages of laborers while we are working together.
Cherries are first examined for quality at the collection site of the washing station, and then accepted or rejected based on the pre-established understanding of quality minimums between the producer and the washing station. This quality understanding would limit the amount of underripe and overripe cherries. At the Zenebe Simbret Washing Station, the producers are paid directly a guaranteed minimum price plus a premium for the cherries at the time of delivering to the washing station.
The washing station produces only washed coffees, so after selection the cherries are pulped with a 4 disc Mckinnon pulping machine. After pulping, the coffee is separated by density into fermentation tanks. In most cases, following our protocols for selective harvesting, handsorting and floating, we find a volume of 15% or less of 2nd Density parchment, while 3rd Density is almost nonexistent. In most washing stations, where our specialized lot protocols are not implemented, we find an average volume of 10-15% floaters, 20-30% 2nd Density and 60-70% Highest Density. This means a significantly high output of top lot quality coffee.
For washed coffees, following pulping, the parchment sits in fully shaded fermentation tanks, and is fully submerged in clean water. The clean water is from the nearby Cheffee River, filtered and stored in reserve. The water in the tank is refreshed up to 3 times during the fermentation cycle. This process almost always takes 48 to 72 hours.
Following the fermentation cycle, the parchment coffee is drained into long washing channels and agitated by hand with wooden rakes. Again, the water is refreshed at least twice during the washing cycle, which lasts about 3 hours per tank. From this point, the parchment is taken to mesh screens where excess water can drain for a period of 10-15 hours. Then the parchment is moved to mesh drying tables, placed at a depth of about 3cm and carefully turned and hand picked throughout the drying cycle, which takes about 8 to 10 days on average. The airflow from the river gorge below keeps a steady movement of fresh air and a pretty stable diurnal temperature.
Once the washing station purchases the coffee it is density sorted and then depupled. The heavy, healthy, coffee sinks to the bottom and the unhealthy “floaters” are separated off. After depulping the coffee is fermented for 36-72 hours to remove most of the sticky layer of mucilage that clings to the depulped coffee. With this specific lot, not all of the mucilage is removed during fermentation. After fermentation, the coffee is agitated in washing channels with wooden takes and then moved to raised beds to dry. Leaving some mucilage intact through processing leads to a more fruit forward cup.
After drying, the coffee is sorted and separated by screen size 13-17 (size classifications for raw coffee) This particular lot is screen size 15. Each screen size offers different characteristics in the cup. After screen size separation the coffee then goes through gravimetric/density sorting, optical sorting and hand sorting to remove any defects. Because of the meticulous nature of processing with this coffee, each person working in the processing preparation was paid an additional 110 birr on top of their normal wages of 35 birr per day.