Sept. 16, 2016
It's been a while since we've had traceable coffee from Ethiopia's southern Guji Zone, with most recent purchases being through the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange ("ECX", the government agricultural exchange program). In a nut shell, unless a farmer owns their own trees, all coffee harvested must be bought, graded, and sold through this government system. This is the case for most small holders in Ethiopia. It's not a bad system, really, one upside being that price as well as payments are regulated, and with local competition being what it is, the price for top grades remains very competitive and stable. One major downside though has been that coffee is sold by region at best, any washing station traceability lost in the shuffle (this is starting to change, but that's another story).
Exceptions to this rule are only made for farmers who either belong to a cooperative, or who own their own trees. The latter applies to Kayon Mountain Farm, a coffee plantation in Shakiso, which has been owned and operated by a single family since 2012. Since they own their land and coffee trees, they are able to broker the sale of their coffee directly, and can even export themselves. They've made major investments in infrastructure in recent years, now overseeing all post harvest processing themselves on their own milling equipment. We were impressed by both their wet processed and naturally processed coffees during the buying season, and wound up bringing in a nominal amount of each.
This is a unique opportunity to taste two Shakiso coffees side by side that were grown at the same farm, of the same heirloom cultivars, but processed two very different ways. Wet-processing refers to the fermentation method implemented after removing the coffee cherry from the seed, which breaks down the sticky mucilage layer surrounding the bean, and is then washed away with water. The whole process can take 12 to 36 hours depending on climate, and tends to produce coffee with heightened acidity, and a general clarity in cup profile. Dry or "natural" processing is when the whole coffee cherry, seed and all, is simply laid out to dry for about 1 month after being harvested, then peeled away from the seed once completely dried. The extended contact with the fruit makes for much more fruited character than wet processing, bigger body, and more muted acidity. And while it can be quite interesting to talk about how different processing methods affect flavor, nothing quite replaces experience. Here's your chance to do just that. Try them both and I think you'll see what I mean.
Ethiopia Shakiso Kayon Mountain Farm - A beautiful cup: jasmine florals, raw honey, cherry cola, lemon custard, and refined finish. Darker roasts are like jasmine-infused cacao bar. City to Full City. Great Ethiopia espresso.
Ethiopia Dry Process Shakiso Kayon - Wild berry, maple sugar, caramel, citrus accents, ripe cranberry, tamarind, hibiscus tea, and flame grape. Incredibly complex cup! Great Ethiopia espresso.