Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia is easily one of the greatest coffee growing areas in the world; that practically goes without saying. Almost any coffee roaster will gush about how coffee originally evolved in Ethiopia, and most of us gravitate to Yirgacheffe’s characteristic refreshing, fruity, delicately citrus, and intensely floral flavors. What most coffee folks don’t like about Ethiopian coffees is how difficult it is to trace them. At least with organizations like ECX, buyers know that the producers are getting fairly compensated for their coffees; but there’s still no substitute for actually knowing where the coffee is coming from.
The fact that we know who grew the coffee we’re reviewing today already makes it a unique offering.
Most of the names roasters/importers give Ethiopian coffees refer to a cooperative or washing station collecting coffee from hundreds (if not thousands) of producers or even a unique approach to processing. “Zelelu” is the name of an individual farmer.
Since Ethiopian coffee is usually grown on small family plots, it has rarely made financial sense to export single families’ coffee. However, over the last couple years, the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) and the folks at Cafe Imports have undertaken the hard work to identify the few YCFCU members whose coffees shine above the YCFCU’s already incredibly high standards.
Zelelu is one of the first individual family lots from the YCFCU and it’s really exciting to showcase it here at the Table.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ethiopia Zelelu, from Huckleberry Roasters in Denver, Colorado. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Zelelu Farm
producer: Zelelu and Family
association: Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union
elevation: 1950 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Ethiopia Zelelu is very soft, very faint, very delicate. It doesn’t come booming out of the cup; it gently, delicately wafts upwards with scents of citrus, honey, melon, and white tea.
Taking my first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew, my palate is greeted by a coffee that is very light-bodied and delicate. It has a lightly honeyed mouthfeel that carries flavors of soft, silky rose petals and both honeydew and cantaloupe.
As the cup cools off, its mouthfeel gets even silkier and its profile much more vibrant and lively. The closer to room temperature it gets, the more tart it gets with notes of peach, green grape, apricot, and a startlingly zesty, complex white grapefruit and limeade acidity.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; citric acidity; slightly dry finish.
The other day I engaged in a discussion with a few folks on Twitter about the flavor profiles of underdeveloped coffee. This conversation was initiated by some thoughts that Matt Perger has on the subject. Basically, his thesis seems to be lightly roasted coffees are underdeveloped; that coffees with lime acidities (particularly Ethiopian coffees) is a clear indicator underdevelopment. I, for one, refute this notion. Many has been the time that I reviewed a coffee that was roasted much lighter than most other roasters go for and it was incredible. Many has been the time that I reviewed a coffee with a lime acidity that I absolutely loved…
Huckleberry Roasters’s Ethiopia Zelelu, for example.
This coffee was roasted lightly and I thought it was absolutely delightful. It was elegant, intricate, and soft, but it still had well-defined flavors, crystalline clarity, a stunning acidity, and it was absolutely delicious. I was particularly delighted with its floral and citric qualities.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.