High quality natural processed micro-lots from Ethiopia have become a central part of any menu in modern speciality coffee with their bold, vibrant, juicy, fruit driven flavour profiles. This acts as a real counterpoint to the more traditional washed coffees from this region famed for their floral aromatics and tea like mouthfeel.
Terroir and process play an equal role in delivering this full on fruit focused flavour profile, and some of the most refined and fruit driven examples come from the Guji zone in Sidamo. The region has a diversity of indigenous coffee varieties that make its coffee taste different to other regions such as Yirga cheffe or Keffa where the indigenous varieties are slightly different. In terms of processing the method has more similarity to that of other growing regions. Ripe cherries are delivered to the processing station. After sorting into different qualities they are then carefully dried on raised beds - initially the coffee is turned every hour or two until the initial moisture content is reduced, before the turning pattern then slows down after the first few days until a stable moisture content is reached. Natural coffees then need to rest to reduce astringency and improve the cup quality before being milled a minimum of two months after picking.
With the natural coffees the retention of the coffee fruit pulp during drying changes the flavour and taste profile. The best natural Yirgacheffes, like this grade one, have a basket full of very ripe fruits including, blueberry, strawberry, cherry and even mango dominating the cup. The taste balance is very different in natural processing when compared to washed process coffees too because more of coffee's naturally occurring sugars are retained. This means sweetness is more prominent in the taste balance which works harmoniously with the tropical fruit flavour profile.
This selection from Shakiso represents the sweet, refined side of natural Guji coffees very well. The berry fruit profile is refined and less boozy than some from the region. This is due in no small part to controlled drying at the Shakiso mill where drying coffee cherries are sheltered from the afternoon sun, preserving the sugars and intensifying flavour.
We've kept this Shakiso light and focused towards a filter roast light to preserve the clarity of cup and let the ripe fruit flavours roll out. Blueberry, guava and strawberry flavours intermingle with transient violet florals over a syrup like sweetness. As the coffee cools a quality black grape acidity balances this very sweet coffee together with a delicious, long lasting finish.