Ethiopia Sidamo, Kenebata Natural Bow Truss

Last week a new roasting operation moved into Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood and opened their doors to the public for the first time. As I’ve mentioned a few times now, a lot of excitement has been brewing around the grand opening, which will take place tonight at their facility from 7-9pm.

Today, we are continuing our week of reviews dedicated to the grand opening of Bow Truss Coffee Roasters with an exclusive first sip of one of their very first coffee offerings.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we are tasting the Ethiopia Sidamo, Kenebata Natural from Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago. Feel free to pull up a chair.

To celebrate the birth of Bow Truss, I thought it only appropriate to review a selection from the birthplace of coffee. As it happens, two of their first four offerings are Ethiopian coffees—one from Yirgacheffe (which I’ll be reviewing in a couple days) and today’s coffee, a natural from Kenebata, Sidamo.

Kenebata, Sidamo is a village located high in the forested mountains of southern Ethiopia. The 450 small holder farmers of the Durame cooperative, who grow their Heirloom variety trees in this region, harvest their crops, gather them together, and bring them to the processing center, where, instead of washing the cherries, they are dried on raised beds for two to three weeks. In addition to the trees that they grow, the farmers also pick cherries off wild trees that grow in the surrounding forests.

Soaking the cherries in the sun rather than the water turns the coffee into a totally different beast. Absorbing the sun’s rays bring out a lot of the depth, flavors, and nuances of any coffee. When I really got into coffee and tried my first naturally processed Sumatra, I was blown away by the flavor difference! It made me wonder why farmers washed their coffees at all! All of the flavors of a washed Sumatra—flavors that were merely okay—suddenly exploded onto my palate, they were so much livelier and vivid; it was such a unique experience, that very first time.

It was like listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time.

However, naturally processing also amplifies the coffee’s flaws. This is the reason farmers wash their coffees—it’s their best attempt at getting rid of all the stuff they don’t want you to taste.

the basics:

origin: Kenebata, Sidamo, Ethiopia
farm: Durame
elevation: 1800-2400 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
process: natural
certifications: standard

the coffee:

The aroma of this coffee is a big blueberry/strawberry bomb. Like an atomic bomb. The scents of blueberry, strawberry, even blackberry that are coming out of this cup are so massive, so heavy, so dominant. There are other elements mixed in too, of course—a little melon, brown sugar, some faint floral aromatics—but those berries really grab my nose’s attention.

The first sip is still pretty berry-dominant; or it could just be my nose dictating what I smell, because wow—that berry bomb. It has a really nice, smooth, creamy body that mixes with the strawberry notes very well. The fruit qualities lazily float over my palate on a river of cream that is richly satisfying. This is a sweet cup, as I’m also getting flavors of brown sugar, cantaloupe, caramel, chocolate, and crisp red apple.

As the cup cools off a bit, the sweetness gets covered up by a burnt flavor—smokiness. If the beginning of the cup was a river of cream, our boat has suddenly been enveloped by a thick fog. Wow, I don’t like this. It doesn’t taste over-burnt, but it definitely should have been roasted at a lower temperature. I’m just going to set my cup off to the side for a few minutes to let it cool off some more, then we’ll see if that smoke is still there.

A few minutes have passed and the cup is now at room temperature. The smokiness, thankfully, has cleared out almost entirely and an incredibly dynamic strawberry acidity has taken its place. Wow. And, again, the sweetness that was so present immediately post brew makes a reappearance—cream, brown sugar, cherry. If it weren’t for that smoky, burnt flavor in the middle of the cup, I would have loved this cup—the beginning and the end were great.

Full body; creamy mouthfeel; medium acidity; dry finish.

the bottom line:

Well… okay. This was a pretty interesting cup of coffee. One that had me saying “wow” out loud a couple of times at different points in its life. However, I think it could have been even better than it turned out—it started off with a bomb of berries and fruits and it finished off with a really good acidity, but there was that weird stage right in the middle where all of the sweetness that should have been present was masked by a charred flavor. Natural coffees can be pretty temperamental in the roaster just because their flavors are so wild and unpredictable, but I would think that Bow Truss—having a roastmaster as prolific as Dennis Jackson—would be able to produce something tastier. I’m going to try out their Yirgacheffe tomorrow—we’ll see how that one turns out.

I won’t go so far as to say that the Sidamo isn’t worth trying, because I think it is; but I will be honest and say I was a little let down by this cup.

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