Ethiopia Haru
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There is currently a bonanza of coffees pouring (literally, if you caught the pun) in from Ethiopia. Naturally I don’t have the time nor the resources to sample most of these coffees, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been reviewing more Ethiopias than normal here at the Table.

And the thing that’s most surprising about this influx of Ethiopian coffees isn’t the amount of them, it’s the flavor diversity of them! I know that no two coffees, even if they’re from the same region or vicinity, taste identical, but, more often than not, they at least taste somewhat similar.

The Ethiopias I’ve been having lately, on the other hand, have been wildly different from one another.

Today, I’m willing to bet, will be no different as I dip into a coffee from the Haru Cooperative, based in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping a cup of Ethiopia Haru, from Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, North Carolina. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Despite there always being Ethiopian coffee available to purchase, despite the popularity of Ethiopian coffee, and even despite the fact that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee itself, Ethiopia is one of the most complex places to work in coffee.

The country has one of the most complicated coffee systems in the world. Finding farmers and cooperatives who consistently produce quality and value sustainability is a huge challenge in Ethiopia, and figuring out the ins and outs and what-have-yous of their coffee economy is another thing entirely. (One of these days, I’d really like to write a post in which I attempt to explain the complicated nature of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.)

One cooperative, however, that has been consistently improving its products over the past few years is the Haru Coop.

The Haru Cooperative was founded in 1975-76, and they joined the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) umbrella cooperative in 2002 as a founding member. Since then, the Haru Cooperative has gone through tough times, notably during the 2009-2010 harvest when they lacked the finances to produce coffee.

This year Counter Culture committed to buying just about all of the coffee that Haru produced from this past harvest, and worked with the cooperative to divide it up into two lots. One of the lots is a Kenya-style fermented experimental lot, and the other is this select lot that we are cupping today, which comes from the best weeks of the harvest, with better selected cherry, and prepared to a higher level before being exported.

the basics:

origin: Haru, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Haru Cooperative
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1800 – 2100 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: Direct Trade, Shade Grown, Organic

the coffee:

The aroma coming off the Ethiopia Haru is really interesting; complex, even. It’s very elegant and delicate with its floral, tea-like aromatics and honeysuckle, but it also seems like there’s a tropical blast in there as I’m picking up a lot of citrus and fruit scents.

The first few sips are very interesting as well. A lot of flavors are being thrown at my palate, but most of them are very fine, delicate flavors that break down on the tongue. It’s like throwing paint at the wall, seeing none of it stick, and needing to apply a second or third coat. Before each sip breaks apart, I get a taste of ginger, a twist of lime, jasmine, macadamia, honeysuckle, and peppermint tea, each sip finishing with that cool, freshy, minty mouthfeel.

As the cup cools off, a lime acidity doesn’t creep in, bubble up, silently emerge, or round out the bottom of the cup so much as it gushes onto the palate. I noticed it immediately post-brew, but it wasn’t anything like what I’m getting now: very intense, very tart, very sharp, very potent lime acidity flooding into my mouth, crashing into the sides of my cheeks and after each sip, it just sits like a lump in my throat.

But the acidity isn’t all that’s going on – there are also some unique tropical fruit notes popping in the background: cantaloupe, coconut, and some kind of medicinal spiced cherry, which are accompanied by a sprinkling of white sugar.

Medium body; molasses mouthfeel; lime acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

I never thought I’d say this, but I think the Ethiopia Haru, from Counter Culture Coffee, might be a bit underdeveloped; either that, or this coffee’s body really is this light, its flavor profile really is this wild, and its acidity really is this sharp, tart, and potent. If the coffee had been developed just a little bit further, it could have retained its unique flavors while toning down the severity of the acidity.

This is a coffee I had last year (though I don’t think I reviewed it), and I remember it tasting much different. The flavors were, essentially, the same, but it was a little bit sweeter, not as tart, more to the middle of the road. This one was as equally unbridled, bright, and lively as it was sweet as it was delicate and genteel. A very complex coffee that, I think, misses its mark.

Nonetheless, the Ethiopia Haru is a perfect example of how incredibly diverse my recent forays into Ethiopian coffee have been. Like Counter Culture writes in their bio of this coffee, “it’s the kind of coffee that makes you think twice about the flavors that are possible in a cup of coffee.” If it were a bit tamer/refined, though, it would have been a much different cup and, probably, a better cup.

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