THE PILGRIM - Best Espresso Coffee
Fragrance/Aroma: Roasted cacao nib, lilac-like flowers, a hint of brandy
Aftertaste: Lightly Sirupy
Acidity: Round, brisk but rich brightness
Body: Delicate, intricate, very sweetly but crisply fruit-toned
Balance: Intensely fruity
Notes: Lime, jammy, jasmine tea
Quality Score: 88
Most Yirgacheffe coffee is prepared by the conventional wet method, in which the skin and pulp are removed from the beans or seeds before they are dried, encouraging a cleanly high-toned, often intensely floral- and citrus-toned cup. This Yirgacheffe is a “natural” or dry-processed version, however, meaning the beans/seeds were dried inside the fruit, encouraging a deeper-toned floral and fruit character. Like virtually all Ethiopia coffees, this striking and unusual coffee is produced by villagers on small, garden plots interplanted with food and other subsistence crops
The area surrounding the market town of Yirgacheffe seems to be nothing short of a coffee wonderland. Thousands of farmers tend small plots of only a few dozen coffee plants, bringing their produce to one of the many local coffee mills. The remote hills of this region are coffee’s homeland. Many of the plants being harvested are wild or semi-wild heirloom cultivars. Only a small percentage of the coffee produced in Ethiopia comes from the “improved” and homogeneous varieties that represent the vast majority of the rest of the world’s production.
The Kerbal Aricha mill, which processed this coffee, sits only a few kilometers from the center of Yirgacheffe town, but receives coffee from over 700 growers. Much of the reason this lot is so spectacular is a result of the terroir in which it is grown. These hills sit above 1900 meters (6230 feet) and have soil that is extremely iron rich, conditions to which the coffee plants are perfectly adapted.
The other factor that contributes to this coffee’s greatness is the care with which it is handled post harvest. The Aricha mill accepts only coffee cherries picked at the peak of ripeness, winnowing out under and over ripe fruit. It is then spread on raised beds, allowing the drying process to occur with maximal airflow. Natural processed coffees like this are dried with the fruit still intact and surrounding the seed, and the early stages of the process are crucial. During the first few days the Aricha mill spreads the coffee in very thin layers and turns it every two to three hours, making sure that it doesn’t over ferment or even mold, either of which can lead to off, foul flavours.