Coffee from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia is usually traceable only as far back as the washing station/processing facility. This is because there is a strong, positive influence on these excellent Ethiopian producers to join co-ops which, while protecting the wages and health of the farmers and their families, sort of muddies the story of where the coffee is from at the farm level.
Out of thousands of farmers that are producing coffee in the Yirgacheffe region, Cafe Imports selected a farmer named Zelele to separate his coffee at the farm level. This is extremely rare. While it is common to see small-producer specific lots in Central and South America, it’s practically unheard of in East Africa, and that’s especially true of Ethiopia.
Zelele’s farm, though larger than average for East African farms, is only 6 hectares, which is about 15 acres. The farm is situated at an elevation of 1950 meters, which contributes to the amazing taste of his coffees. He works the land with his eight children (four girls and four boys) and hires additional workers during the harvest season. Zelele is 52 years old.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ethiopia Zelele, from Tanager Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon.
region: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Zelele Microlot
elevation: 1950 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma coming off of the Ethiopia Zelele is sweet, but roasty. There are notes of vanilla, sugar, and floral aromatics—cherry blossom and lilac, very tea-like in nature; delicate and fragrant.
What’s interesting about the first few sips is that the flavor isn’t as roasty as the aroma; a bit of that roast is present, sure, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Underneath the roastiness are lightly sweet flavors of vanilla wafer, honey, white sugar, and buttery cream. Laced through these flavors is a note of crisp cherry that really lends to the overall sweetness of the cup.
Then the overall profile changes up a bit, switching from vanilla creaminess to chocolate milkiness.
As it cools, the cup gets a bit more complex and fruity, particularly with notes of watermelon and blueberry, while the cherry intensifies just a little bit. There’s not much of a defined acidity to be found in the cup, but there are very slight shades of lemon meringue pie, while tea-like sencha and jasmine aromatics flutter in the finish.
Medium body; creamy mouthfeel; lemon acidity; slightly astringent finish.
the bottom line:
Tanager’s website reads, “For our first offering, we wanted to go big and fully embody the mission of Tanager Coffee Roasters,” and, to be honest, this was a solid first outing for the still very new Portland-based roastery. Certainly not perfect, but a really solid first offering.
The Ethiopia Zelele, from Tanager Coffee Roasters, has some real assets working for it and, really, not much working against it. Its roastiness, coupled with with its green tea-like notes in the finish, deliver a slight astringency that I didn’t care for and it also covered some really nice flavors in its first two stages: vanilla, chocolate milk, cherry, melon, flowers—all things that are good.
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