Spotted Cow Coffee Company is back at the Table with their take on the seasonal holiday blend, Sleigh Ride Christmas Blend. I’m presenting a lot of information in this post, so let’s get straight to it! Sleigh Ride is comprised of components from Tanzania, Guatemala, and Ethiopia.
TANZANIA TARIME AB
This AB quality coffee comes from the Tarime district of Tanzania. Tarime District is one of the six districts of the Mara Region of Tanzania, East Africa. It was previously known as the “North Mara District”. It is bordered from the north to east by the Kenyan districts of Migori, Trans Mara and Kisii, and to the east by the Maasai Mara game reserve. To the south it is bordered across the Mara River by the Musoma Urban, Musoma Rural and Serengeti districts, and to the west by Rorya District. Distances in Tanzania are vast – there’s almost 1000 kms between coffee producing regions in the North and in the South, same for East and West.
The altitudes are up to almost 2000 MASL in many places. 90% of coffee producers are smallholder farmers, owning between 0.5 to 3 hectares, and less than 10% of the coffees are grown at estates. Similar to Kenya, coffee came with the French missionaries in the late 1800s, and was planted around Kilimanjaro for the most part (there are the Bourbon varieties that are often seen as SLs in Kenya now). In Tanzania, with its Indian influence, the Indian Kent varieties came from Mysore in the 1920s. In general, there are two varieties widely used today, the Bourbon-descended N39 hybrid, and the Kent hybrid KP432, as well as Kent varieties K7 and K9.*
GUATEMALA EL RINCON
This is a coffee that hails from El Mirador Finca El Rincon in La Libertad, Huehuehtenango, which is managed by the Molina family.
Until the Spanish conquest in 1525, Huehuetenango was the capital of the Mam Kingdom. It is situated in the north west of Guatemala on the border with Mexico at an altitude between 850 and 3700 meters and covers an extraordinary variety of ecosystems (from subtropical rainforest to pine forests).
Lying at the foot of the Cuchumatanes, the highest non-volcanic mountains of Central America, Huehuetenango is one of the most suitable areas of the country for growing coffee.
Huehuetenango is a city and a municipality in the highlands of western Guatemala. It is also the capital of the department of Huehuetenango. The municipality’s population was over 81,000 people in 2002. The city is located 269 km from Guatemala City, and is the last departmental capital on the Pan-American Highway before reaching the Mexican border at La Mesilla.
Since 2008, much (if not most) of Ethiopia’s coffee goes anonymously through the privately owned, government-warehoused Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX). Aside from cooperatives and large estates, coffees are sold through the ECX to exporters and in the processes rebranded by region.
Or…more or less by region.
This lot was marked “Gelana Abaya”, which used to be a district of the Oromia region in the southern zone of Borena; now, Gelana and Abaya are separate districts, but coffee from either of the two can still be marked as “Gelana Abaya.” Most likely, this coffee came from an area that is nestled between Lake Abaya on the West and the town of Yirgacheffe on the East.
Unfortunately we don’t know who produced this great coffee. The ECX does promise, at least, that the farmer gets paid 80% of the final export price, which means (s)he probably got paid well for it.
Unfortunately, though, we can’t be sure.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Sleigh Ride Christmas Blend, from Spotted Cow Coffee Company in Mill Creek, Washington. Feel free to pull up a chair.
origin: Tarime, Tanzania // La Libertad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala // Gelana Abaya, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: N/A // El Mirador Finca El Rincon // N/A
producer: smallholder farmers // Molina family // smallholder farmers
association: N/A // N/A // N/A
elevation: >1500 // 1600 // 1700 – 1900 meters above sea level
cultivars: N39, Kent KP423, K7, K9 // Bourbon, Caturra// Ethiopia Heirloom
process: fully washed, patio dried // fully washed, patio dried // natural
The aroma of the Sleigh Ride Christmas Blend is sweet and fruity, but mellow and subdued—surprisingly so, considering the components that went into the blend (particularly the natural Gelana Abaya). Wisps of faint florals play off a base of caramelized brown sugar and red fruits.
The coffee’s flavor follows its nose and has much more of a presence than its aroma. Which is good, because its flavor is fantastic. The coffee possesses a medium body and it coats the tongue with a smooth, honeyed mouthfeel. Sweetness of toffee, roasted nuts, rum cake, and snickerdoodle coffee, accompanied by juicy fruits: spiced cherry, pomegranate, raisin, clementine (which contributes to the coffee’s citric acidity), nectarine, Gala apple… There’s also a bit of an herbal bite in this cup, which tastes, to me, like clove and anise.
Medium body; honeyed mouthfeel; citric acidity; clean finish.
We’re wrapping up our series of holiday coffees today and, really, this one was a great sendoff until next year. Spotted Cow Coffee‘s Sleigh Ride Christmas Blend is a great example of the style in that it features flavors that are reminiscent of the season. It was sugary (but not too sweet), it was fruity (but not too bright), and it had just a little bit of a bite to it to keep the cup complex.
*content provided by Olam Specialty Coffee
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.