At a Glance: single origin (Ethiopia); medium/full body; fruity, floral, chocolate, gritty, balanced; low acidity; natural

Greetings, coffee lovers! Welcome back to my table here in the corner of this cafe. Over the past week or so, I have had so much coffee – probably more than I’ve ever consumed in one week. Here’s the crazy thing about it: almost every cup of coffee I’ve had has come from a different company. In just one visit to Caffe Streets, here in Chicago, I drank three cups from three different companies! The other crazy thing about all of this is that every single cup of coffee I’ve had has been really, really good. I’m lucking out!

With this in mind, I’ve decided to forgo this week’s cafe review, and, instead, do a coffee review. Plus, I’ll probably be doing another couple of coffee reviews as the week progresses. Let’s see, we’ve got roasts from Intelligentsia, Starbucks, Stumptown, and Ipsento to review; today, though, we’re going to get this week kicked off with a really awesome Ethiopia – Rophi, from Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon.

Ready for the caffeination? Feel free to pull up a chair.

This is another coffee I got to try courtesy of The Wormhole‘s guest roaster pour-over bar (on a side note – seriously, every coffee shop in America should have a guest roaster pour-over bar; this is by far the best way to discover new favorite coffees). Last week, of course, they featured two San Francisco-based roasters (Ritual and FourBarrel – both of which I reviewed); this week, they turned their eyes up north a-ways – Pacific Northwest a-ways, to be precise – and set their sights on America’s coffee holy land, Portland, Oregon.

I, quite frankly, couldn’t be happier about this. Since I started this website back in April, I (shockingly) haven’t had any coffee from Portland – very ironic coming from a person who’s thinking about taking a week-long coffee pilgrimage to Portland in a few months. One of the places I am determined to visit is Coava Coffee Roasters – the roasters of today’s coffee from Rophi, Ethiopia.

Running through the entire country are what is known as the Ethiopian Highlands – a rugged mass of mountains that rise to heights of 4550 meters above sea level, with little of its surface falling below 1500 meters. This has earned the the Highlands the nickname “the Roof of Africa.” Rophi is located around the southeastern part of this range, and it’s surrounded by forest, wildlife sanctuaries, even the Bale Mountains to its northeast. Rophi is a tiny village located in the Oromia region of central and southern Ethiopia. This is the largest region in Ethiopia, both in terms of population (a cool 27 million) and area (353,632 square kilometers), but the village of Rophi’s population is just between two and three thousand.

Their main source of income? Coffee farming. The farms – where the coffee plants are of the heirloom varietal – are nestled on these slopes in the Borena Hagermariam, Sidama district. Elevations here reach heights of up to 1750-1810 meters above sea level. The coffee is then processed naturally.

So what’s it like?

First of all, the aroma of this brew is marvelous. It is both herbal and floral, with hints of sweet jasmine and hibiscus. These notes combine with a touch of milk chocolate and hazelnut.

The coffee packs a lot of flavor right off the bat. Upon first sip, a rush of fruitiness crashes onto the tip of your tongue, then sweeps to the back, coating the palate with sweetness. Strawberry and raspberry tartness mix a dash of blueberry sweetness, topped off with just a touch of citrus acidity. Cementing this flavor in place is the coffee’s texture, which is just the right amount of earthy grit to make this cup very well balanced and rounded. As the cup cools, Ethiopia’s famous creamy milk chocolatiness  starts to make its presence known; also making an appearance is a sprinkling of hazelnut.

I’m actually a bit surprised that this coffee is naturally processed, because for a natural coffee, it’s kind of light. In my experience, natural coffees are very full-bodied with big, bold flavors. This Ethiopia (a region that is also known for its fuller-bodied coffees), on the other hand, is towards the lighter side of a full body – like a full body that’s lost some weight. Furthermore, for a natural coffee, there are some aspects about it that are really rather delicate; there aren’t many unwashed coffees that have hints of jasmine and hibiscus – terms typically reserved for light-bodied brews and tea.

The Bottom Line

Coava Coffee Roaster’s Ethiopia – Rophi is easily one of the best coffees I’ve had from Ethiopia in some time. This naturally processed coffee is both sweet and full-bodied, equal parts dainty and gritty, with delicate aromas of jasmine and carob that give way to flavors of lush strawberries and notes of hazelnuts and creamy milk chocolate. A nice bed of earthiness makes it a great example of a really well-balanced cup of coffee.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

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