One of my coworkers, Sam, recently took a trip to New Orleans for a few days. I was very jealous. This has been a never-ending winter in the greater Chicagoland area – brutally cold and oppressively sunless for months – and I’ve really been pining to get away for a few days, myself. Before Sam left, I told him, “Make it a point to visit two places for me while you’re there, so I can vicariously through you: Cafe du Monde and Spitfire Coffee.” He did. And he loved them, as I knew he would.

And, to my surprise, he also returned home with a couple bags of coffee (from Onyx Coffee Lab and Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters) for our team’s communal coffee area (which, really, is just a Keurig and a bunch of K-Cups). Another of our coworkers said he was going to brew some up in the Keurig and I spun around in my chair and declared, “Absolutely not – I forbid anyone on this team to put these coffees through that machine.” So I brought in my Hario Skerton, bought an electric kettle, and my Clever Coffee Dripper and set up a mini coffee bar at my desk, replete with a tip jar, and dubbed myself the official team barista.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this… office. Today we’re cupping the Ethiopia Bensa Bombe, from Onyx Coffee Lab in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Feel free to pull up a chair.

This coffee is the first time we have ever purchased from the Shantawene Mill, and it comes by way of our friends at Catalyst Coffee. We have talked with Catalyst for many years about buying coffees, but we never had the pleasure of working together due to timing issues. This year we were able to meet up in Ethiopia, and we purchased both the washed and natural micro-lots from the Sidama, Bensa region.

This washing station is a culmination of several years of preparation for Sidama coffee man Assefa Dukamo and his family. Bombe Washing Station, named for the Bombe Mountains, which stand to the south of several of the washing stations where we’ve worked the past few years, specifically Shantawene and Qonqona Washing Stations. On the north side of this washing station lies the Shantawene, south lies Bombe. This producing season, producers from both cherries to this site, as a central processing point for Organic Certified coffees.

While Shantawene maintains a washing station of its own, this site location took lots from both communities and separated each lot in specific fermentation tanks and drying locations. This action provides many more opportunities to the producers, as well as centralizes special processing techniques, such as shaded fermentation tanks, and washing channels as well as shaded drying tables.*

There is so much more to learn about this coffee on the product page, thanks to the in-depth reporting of Emily McIntyre from Catalyst Coffee Consulting. I highly encourage you to click over there to learn more.


region: Sidama, Ethiopia
farm: Shantawene Mill
producer: smallholder farmers
association: N/A
elevation: 2100 meters above sea level
varietal: Mikicho, Setami, Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried


As I soon as I open the packaging, there is a burst of bright fruits and florals. Red berries, chocolate, and rose petals bloom out of the bag,

This is a medium-bodied coffee, with a silky mouthfeel and tart tropical fruit acidity. Again, as the aroma suggests, it’s a fruit-forward coffee bright red berries showing up immediately and lingering throughout the entire cup, transitioning between raspberry and strawberry and back again. As the cup cools, I’m getting flavors of tart kiwi that bite at the sides of the tongue, as well as pleasant notes of lavender and floral tea with a creamy, milk chocolate finish. Onyx writes “raspberry sweet tea” on their label and I think that’s spot-on.

Hot damn. Onyx Coffee Lab’s Ethiopia Bensa Bombe is a five-star banger. A truly exceptional, face-melting Sidaman coffee. And I am so grateful to my coworker, Sam, for allowing me the opportunity to try it out.

*content courtesy of Emily McIntyre, Catalyst Coffee Consulting

What were your thoughts of this one? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome! Feel free to enter a comment below.


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