ETHIOPIAN SUPER NATURAL IS OUT OF THIS WORLD
ETHIOPIA: THE ORIGIN OF ARABICA
We have Ethiopia to thank for coffee. It's the birthplace of the bean, which still grows wild there. Arabica coffee—the species that dominates global trade—is typically grown at higher altitudes, offering the most refined flavors in coffee. Although named for Arabia, where it was first traded, coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region over 1,000 years ago.
THE DISCOVERY OF A SUPER NATURAL
The growing regions of Ethiopia are known for coffees that use the ‘washed’ processing method, but we’ve chosen to do things differently, with remarkable results. We were fortunate to be the first to import an extraordinary coffee from Ethiopia in 2005, processed using the ‘natural’ processing method. Sweet and full, Ethiopian Super Natural is memorable for being fragrantly fruity, with a whiff of white flower, a concentrated dose of dried blueberry, and a shot of candied citron.
METICULOUS CARE BEGETS MAGNIFICENT FLAVOR
‘Natural’ processed coffee begins with hand-selected ripe coffee cherry, carefully laid in a single layer to be dried in the East African sun. The prolonged contact between bean and cherry in natural coffees imparts the incredible wild and fruity flavor that is so distinctive and apparent as you sniff the heady aroma of sweet blueberries.
When the heat is at its peak, the coffee beans must be carefully shaded so they don’t burn or scorch, and individual fruit that spoils is culled. For two whole weeks, the beans are monitored and ushered through a repetitive dance of shade and exposure to the sun’s rays, the flavor sweetening as it dries. It’s a time-consuming and risky process, which is why washing the coffee is usually the preferred method. But when it’s done with care and expertise, the results are supernatural: bright and citrusy notes—intensified and deeply sweetened with sun-warmed sugars—for a winey, fruity flavor that is unlike anything else in this world. Take a sip and note the complexity, the rich overtones. Truly a Super Natural worth savoring.
THE KEY IS IN THE QUALITY
This year, our very favorite lots come from Ethiopia’s Guji zone. The key to a great natural coffee—or, for that matter, a washed coffee—is the quality of the fruit one begins with. Under the skilled management of the Adinew family, the coffee from Hambela Farm is grown as high as 7,200 feet and has been consistently spectacular over the last several crop years.
Careful coffee harvesting at origin in Ethiopia
IMPACT AT THE SOURCE
Like the Guji zone, Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe district is revered for producing some of the world’s most distinctly flavorful coffees. As such, the area is positioned to serve as inspiration to other regions looking to improve coffee quality and productivity. The Regrow Yirga project, supported by Peet’s, relies on one powerful insight—tree stumping—which dramatically increases productivity. This practice involves cutting aging coffee trees at their base, encouraging the growth of vigorous new stems. These new stems produce more coffee, generating yields matching or exceeding that of young trees, which begin to decline at year 7 or 8. Naturally, farmers are reluctant to lose even a small portion of production to stumping. To help farmers overcome the temporary loss of income and embrace the practice, Regrow Yirga compensates farmers for stumping up to 500 trees, giving their trees—and their futures—a new lease on life.
NOTES FROM THE ROASTERY
The ESN (that's Peetnik parlance for Ethiopian Super Natural) this year is even more super than last. Upfront, it’s got intense, blueberry fruitiness that jumps out at you, reminding us of when we drink a juicy, hoppy, IPA. Then the finish spreads out and becomes more complex on your palate, like a pinot noir.
Ethiopian coffees are typically loud and conversational during the roast because of their altitude and bean density. With this Super Natural, we had to be even more delicate with our settings. Too aggressive a crack and you’ll scorch these small beans, something you don’t ever want to taste in the cup.
We picture drinking this coffee throughout the day, or when we’re sitting around after dinner enjoying a cup with a dessert. But anytime you drink it, it really is a treat.
-John Nicolini and Michael Madden, Roasters