ethiopia gelana abaya
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Sometime last year, the Chicago coffee industry rumor mill started up and it didn’t take long for it to operate at full force. The biggest rumor of them all—The Wormhole would be doing its own roasting in 2012.

It was as surprising as it was expected, if that makes any sense. I mean, we all know Wormhole was certainly capable of installing such an operation: their coffee knowledge is top-notch in the city, they have excellent taste, they had the capital, and the know-how; it was just a matter of finding a space to do their roasting in.

Then, it was officially announced that Wormhole would be sharing a space and roaster with another company that was going to be calling Chicago home—Gaslight Coffee Roasters (who I’ll be reviewing soon and very soon, fret not).

A thick cloud of excitement/anticipation hung over the city, just waiting and waiting for the day. Then it came.

And I missed it.

Halfwit Coffee had been in full swing for almost a couple of months by the time I finally managed to get down to Wormhole to buy a bag. I’m ashamed of myself, and, Dear Reader, you should be ashamed of me too.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are sipping Ethiopia Gelana Abaya, from Halfwit Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.

Since 2008, much (if not most) of Ethiopia’s coffee goes anonymously through the privately owned, government warehoused Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) (which Halfwit also has in stock). Aside from cooperatives and large estates, coffees are sold through the ECX to exporters and in the processes rebranded by region. Or…more or less by region.

This lot was marked “Gelana Abaya”, which used to be a district of the Oromia region in the southern zone of Borena; now, Gelana and Abaya are separate districts, but coffee from them can still be marked as Gelana Abaya. Unfortunately, we don’t know who produces this great coffee.

The ECX does promise that the farmer gets paid 80% of the final export price (which means (s)he probably got paid well for this coffee) but we can’t be sure.

the basics:

origin: Kersa, Gelana Abaya, Oromia, Ethiopia
farm: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1800 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: natural, patio dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

There are massive, massive notes of floral aromatics (rose hips and violet), sugar sweet candied honey, cocoa, fruity clementine, coconut, and cherry, and—you want to talk about bombs?—a whole nuclear arsenal of berries: cranberry, blueberry, and raspberry. This coffee’s aroma is so incredible, just opening the package is pleasing enough.

Wait… Who am I kidding? Of course it isn’t!

I am so glad I decided to go forward with drinking this coffee because… bippity boppity—it good. Up front those floral aromatics still delights the nose while a veritable smorgasbord of fruity flavors come avalanching out of the cup and spread across the palate. And, my goodness, this coffee has such amazing, sparkling clarity—I’ve actually had to brew the coffee four or five times just to make sure I picked up all the flavors as my notebook feverishly attempted to keep up with the excitement my taste buds were experiencing.

Here’s the short list of fruit notes I got out of the cup (EDITOR’S NOTE: just the fruit notes), in no particular order: papaya, mango, pineapple, blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, guava, coconut, acai berry, cherry, plum, clementine, lemon, apple, grape, strawberry, banana, orange.

All of these flavors come flooding in on a river of  caramel, jasmine, vanilla, bergamot, brown sugar, honey, milk chocolate, and—is that bourbon? Yes. Yes it is. Just a tiny drop of bourbon on the tip of the tongue makes the medicine go down.

When it cools off to room temperature, a soft lemon acidity rounds out the cup, washes the palate, and leaves behind a sparkling clean finish.


Medium body; silky smooth mouthfeel; soft lemon acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

This is almost unfair to my friends at Halfwit—I can almost guarantee that starting off with the Ethiopia Gelana Abaya, no matter how much I fight it, is going to cause to me to look through a glass darkly at the rest of Halfwit’s offerings.

Because this coffee was good. Damn good. And I can’t even imagine how delectable it would be as an espresso.

There are so many flavors happening in the cup at all times that they’re hard to keep track of—it’s immensely complex, but the clarity is crystalline. Shockingly so.

Ethiopia Gelana Abaya is available at The Wormhole in Wicker Park, and I suggest you hurry down there to pick some up. In fact, you should go TONIGHT dressed up in your Halloween digs so that you can grab some of this, some awesome brews from Kickapoo Coffee, watch some baristas throw down, compete in a costume contest, and shake yer rumps all night long.

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