Ethiopia Zele Organic Yirgacheffe
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One of the things I love most about running the Table is, not only drinking fantastic coffees, but also discovering great roasters from all over the country. I’ve been introduced to some great ones, for sure, and among the best of 2012 was Washington’s Bluebeard Coffee Roasters. A couple of their coffees even found a place in my Top 25 Coffees of 2012 list.

A few weeks ago, my friends at Bluebeard surprised me with a package of a couple more samples that I’m sure will be contenders for 2013’s best coffee of the year list.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re a sipping a cup of Ethiopia Zelele Organic Yirgacheffe, from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters in Tacoma, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.

The Ethiopia Zelele is a bit of a rarity for Ethiopian coffees.

This is a microlot from a small-producer out of Ethiopia. While it is common to see small-producer specific lots in Central and South America it is not in East Africa. In part, is due to the smaller sized farms in East Africa and their lots and production being too small to make it practical to be “kept separate”.

It is common to see estate (large plantations) specific lots out of Ethiopia but these microlots are rare. Cafe Imports and Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union are proud of this achievement and happy to be able to provide this type of traceability from the region.

the basics:

origin: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Zelele microlot
elevation: 1950 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: Organic, Fair Trade

the coffee:

The aroma of the Ethiopia Zelele is sweet and fragrant, and it comes lilting out of the cup. Milk chocolate greets the nose first, followed closely by tart lemon, strawberry, and green tea aromatics.

The flavor of this cup starts off with a sort of spicy cherry; sort of like a throat lozenge, but without any of that medicinal taste. It tingles the tip of the tongue before it hops, skips, and jumps to the back of the throat. Meanwhile, a light, silky body of cocoa dusts over the palate.

As it starts to cool off, zesty Meyer lemon almost completely takes over the flavor profile of the cup. There are some other fruity elements here—such as blueberry, strawberry, plum, and candied watermelon—but that lemon taste and acidity is really dazzling.

At room temperature, the lemon backs off, as do the rest of the fruit flavors, to be honest. At this point in the cup, the coffee is more balanced, more rounded, and a lot more delicate. It’s a lot less flavorful, but a lot more aromatic and herbaceous—a little grassy, even—with plenty of green tea (I’m thinking sencha) and jasmine notes.

Light body; silky mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

The Ethiopia Zelele Organic Yirgacheffe, from Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, is a unique, complex, and graceful coffee that proves the dynamics of the region. While a lot of Ethiopian coffees can be chocolate or blueberry bombs, Zelele turned out to be a fine and delicate cup, brimming with yellows and greens.

Silky in mouthfeel, light in body, fruity and herbaceous in flavor, Ethiopia Zelele didn’t challenge or confuse or even surprise the palate; instead, it graced the palate, pirouetting across it, and tantalizing it.

This Ethiopian coffee isn’t typical of the region, for sure. It is fine and fair—the antithesis of a region so well-know for big flavored and big bodied coffees. A rarity such as this one deserves to be investigated.

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