Last year, Nordic Approach was given the opportunity to support and be a part of a new and unique Ethiopian project: small- to medium-sized farmers, who previously delivered cherries to the cooperatives in Yirgacheffe, have constructed micro–mills with the support from micro financing organizations, the government, and the Yirgacheffe Cooperative Union. They are now able to produce, sell, and export their coffees directly as single estate coffees (which, as you probably know, is extremely rare in this part of the world). This pilot project can change the ways some Ethiopian specialty coffees are produced and traded.
Nordic Approach currently has coffees from three great farms in their portfolio.
The man behind the program, Tekle Mammo, has been working with coffee growers all his life. He took the initiative to get this project off the ground and named it “One Farmer, One Roaster”. He started this project in 2011 together with Yirgacheffe Union by convincing three small farmers in Yirgacheffe to take a loan and invest in hand pulping machines for washed coffee. At the same time they wanted to prepare for long term relationships with speciality coffee roasters to build sustainable businesses.
Thus far, it has been a success: at this point there are several farmers taking part in the project, and most of them have invested in and constructed proper micro-mills where they are able to produce washed coffees based on the same quality standards as the most successful cooperatives.
The coffee I’m reviewing today comes Mr. Mesele Haille, who has created a fantastic farm of 12 hectares. He invested in a micro mill, clean water wells and organic ways of yielding fantastic coffee cherries. He has no chemicals on his farm and knows how to compost, cross-plant and prune his coffee trees. He has set them in good distances so they can access a high amount of nutrition and minerals.
Previously, he was successful in delivering cherries to the local cooperatives, but took the opportunity to get support and financing to build his own wet mill. The coffees are sold directly, still under the Cooperative umbrella. His production so far is 100 bags of exportable greens. He is also investing in fermentation tanks, a warehouse on his property, drying tables, fences and other infrastructure necessary to run his own operation.
The workers on the farm are mainly family members and neighbors. They’re being trained to pick the fully ripe cherries only to achieve maximum taste and sweetness in the coffees. The depulping, drying and selecting of the beans are undergoing strong manual efforts. The drying on high-rised beds is done only on certain hours per day so that the coffee beans dry slow and evenly to capture a juicy cell-structure. Drying is done in up to 15 days instead of the shorter 7-8 days that is more common with other drying stations.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Ethiopia Mesele Haile, from New Town Coffee Roasters in Edinburgh, Scotland. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
producer: Mesele Haile
elevation: 1800 – 2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom, Krume 147
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
The aroma of the Mesele Haile is such a treat. Elegant and delicate floral and tea-leaf aromatics tickle the tip of the nose before soft berries and citrus gently rolls into the nostrils.
Taking my first few sips of the coffee my taste buds are graced by an absolutely beautiful coffee. The coffee’s flavor profile is a mirror image of its aroma – which is a great thing. From the very first sip my taste buds are dusted by a flutter of delicate and nuanced flavors of bergamot, rose hips, Darjeeling, and hibiscus, but there’s also a thin blanket of caramel and honey that helps to balance the cup with lower-end notes.
As it cools off, soft, curvy, and silky fruit flavors lazily gush over the palate and stick around in a long, lasting finish. Incredible tastes of apricot, peach, raspberry, red currant, raisin, pear, apple, nectarine, and a mellow Meyer lemon acidity that adds just enough zing to give the coffee a bit of liveliness.
Light body; silky mouthfeel; lemon acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
A couple weeks ago, I boldly made the prediction that, while 2013 was the year of the stellar Ethiopian coffee, Kenya will receive the bulk of the spotlight in 2014. Now, we’re not that far into 2014 so this might be a case of 2013 spilling over into the new year, but Ethiopia is still making a massive impression on me. The Ethiopia Mesele Haile, from New Town Coffee Roasters, is certainly no exception.
What a classy and elegant coffee the Mesele Haile is. It is a real delicacy of a beverage with its soft edges, rounded corners, and refined features; a very silky mouthfeel and a delicate flavor profile make this a sophisticated coffee – one that I’d put forth as an example in the “is coffee as culinary as wine?” debate.
Now, in a misguided effort to appeal to Scottish readers, the thing I really want to say about the Ethiopia Mesele Haile is: “A pure like it!”
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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.