Throughout the coffee-growing world significant strides are being made to promote direct relationships between farmers and roasters. In certain countries, though, these efforts remain difficult because of strict rules regarding how coffee can be sold for export.
In Ethiopia, individual farmers that are not members of cooperative societies have only one option – sell their coffee through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. This system makes it impossible to know any coffee’s specific origin.
On the other hand, this guarantees high wages for exceptional coffees, such as this captivating selection from the Sidama region brought to us by Mountain Air Roasting. So while it would be great to know the names and faces of the farmers behind this coffee, you can feel good knowing that the unparalleled quality of these Grade 1 beans has been recognized with premium prices.
This is the second coffee that Craft has featured from Mountain Air Roasting – a micro-roaster based in Asheville, North Carolina. The man behind the operation, Marshall Hance, brings a rather unorthodox perspective to the art and science of coffee roasting, with a background in textile materials science.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Ethiopia Sidama, from Mountain Air Roasting in Asheville, North Carolina, courtesy of Craft Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Sidama, Ethiopia
association: Ethiopia Commodity Exchange
elevation: 1800 – 2100 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma coming off of the Sidama is incredibly fragrant and perfumed, with lots of floral aromatics laced with sweets, fruits, and savories. Lilacs greet the nostrils first, introducing further delicate scents of black tea leaves, cloves, peach, honey, and citrus.
As I take my first few sips of this coffee, I’m struck by how full-bodied it is, but also by delicate and nuanced the flavors are. Each sip expands over the palate, filling every part of my mouth, and it sits heavily in the belly, but it’s not an overpowering coffee at all. In fact, the flavor’s “heaviest” feature is a river of honey that lazily streams down the middle and sides of the tongue, ushering in moderately spicy notes of cinnamon and roasted almonds. What my taste buds are most taken with, however, is the rich bouquet of silky lilac, violet, and rose petals that flit and flutter over the palate.
As it cools off the coffee gets even brighter, but tart, with juicy kiwi and a lime acidity that splashes into the sides of my mouth. Each sip is light and airy and each finish is slightly dry, but still the coffee weighs down the belly. Delicate, nuanced, and intricately layered flavors of Pinot Grigio, jasmine, ginger, oak, buttered scone, tannins, green grapes, tonic water, and – what I think might be my favorite (certainly most specific) tasting note of all time – gin-soaked white raisins.
Full body; bubbly mouthfeel; lime acidity; mildly dry finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Mountain Air Roasting has provided The Table with yet another distinct Ethiopian coffee with their Ethiopia Sidama.
Everything about this coffee is utterly delightful and, even more so, fanciful. It is distinguished, dapper, dignified. As far as coffees go, this one’s a bit of a dandy – and I mean that in the best way possible. Entirely scholarly, gentlemanly, and sophisticated. And this is all for a full-bodied coffee – which makes this Sidama entirely singular. Typically, when you read “full-bodied” you don’t also read “sophisticated” or “distinguished” – you read “voluptuous, curvy, bawdy, intense,” and other such phrases instead.
No, with this Sidama you get a full-bodied coffee that sits heavy in the belly but dances lightly on the palate; and, instead of “big” flavors like chocolate or blueberry that are so prevalent in Ethiopian coffees (particularly “full-bodied” Ethiopian coffees), this one had notes of white wine, black tea, savories, and fruits both tropically bright and dried.
But this coffee represents the sort of sophistication that doesn’t have a high price tag; by that I mean for as delicate, refined, nuanced, and complex as it is, it’s a coffee that is very easy to enjoy, to get totally lost in. It’s challenging, but it’s not off-putting.
A very special offering from Mountain Air Roasting.
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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.