Introducing the second coffee in our 2016 Explorer Series, from the north of Sumatra: Silk of the Gayo Mountains. Like our first offering in the series, this one provides a variation on a familiar theme. Our Sumatra Gayo Mountain coffee that we carry year-round is known for its full body, relatively low acidity, and deep earthy and sometimes herby flavors. Lovers of the Gayo Mountain coffee will be pleasantly surprised to find those attributes present in the Silk of the Gayo Mountains, with an additional sweetness uncommon in most Sumatran coffees.
Silk of the Gayo Mountains is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Cooperative Coffees membership and farmers of the Permata Gayo Cooperative. This project is one of the ways we are working to increase dialogue between roasters and farmers. In the coffee growing world farmers rarely drink the coffee they grow. A lack of coffee culture creates a wide gap in understanding how farming and coffee cherry processing affects how a cup of coffee tastes. Fortunately, importers, roasters, and industry groups have been working hard over the past several years to bridge that gap. Increased communication about roasters’ and coffee consumers’ preferences closes the production loop, and provides clarity for farmers about how their role at the beginning of the supply chain seriously impacts the final product.
The importer/farmer collaboration began in 2014 as a cupping workshop series. Farmers who participated in the workshop took ownership of the project almost immediately. A small number of them began experimenting at the farm level to improve quality on the cupping table. Six farmers from the community of Temas Mumanang, driven by new insight, and the sensory experience of tasting many coffees, both good and bad, developed a new and improved cup profile without straying from their traditional processing techniques. The key was understanding how cherry density affects cup profile, and developing a method to sort bad from good cherries. A simple method of floating cherries in a large container of water allows farmers to remove underdeveloped cherries from the supply chain early in the process.
“Silk of the Gayo Mountains” is how these farmers named their experimental coffee, and I think they hit the nail on the head. As I’ve mentioned, this is a very “Sumatran” coffee with full, silky body and earthy, herbal undertones. But, it has an added sweetness that really shines in the finish and lingering aftertaste. We hope you enjoy it.
Here is the first coffee in our 2016 Explorer Series: Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere. If you are a long-time Heine Brothers’ supporter you’ve probably noticed that we buy a lot of Ethiopian coffee. We’ve been known to carry two or three different Ethiopian coffees simultaneously. The reason for this is simple; Ethiopia produces many excellent coffees. Each one is delicious and distinct from the others. This offering from the Kochere district of Yirgacheffe is a fun and interesting standout from coffee’s homeland.
For those of you who like geography, Yirgacheffe is located east of Abaya Lake in the Bale Mountains of southern Ethiopia. This particular lot comes from a 1,600 member producer cooperative called Hama. In 2015 Hama farmers produced about 7 containers, or approximately 230,000 lbs. of green coffee. Of those, one container was natural processed. Of that container, we got our hands on two bags.
Natural, or dry-processed, coffees are common in the marketplace, but it takes extra care and attention to produce a truly special lot of natural coffee. Without getting deep into the weeds of coffee cherry processing, let’s just say that washed coffees require a great deal more resources (i.e. water) than naturals, but to do it right, naturals require much more manual labor.
A natural coffee begins with only ripe cherries that are painstakingly sorted to remove unripes, over-ripes, and debris. It’s traditional in Ethiopia to dry cherries on raised drying beds that are basically long tables with mesh tabletops. After two or three weeks in the sun, the cherries are now coffee raisins. During the extended sunbathing, the cherries infuse huge ripe fruit flavor and lots of body to the seeds within. Once the green seeds are removed from the dried fruit it’s sorted a final time, bagged, and shipped.
We select our natural processed coffees for specific flavor notes: fruit up front and chocolate finish. This Yirgacheffe is no exception. You may be familiar with the washed Yirgacheffe we carried in summers past. Its lighter body and distinct lemon and bergamot flavors make that coffee an excellent choice for iced pourovers on the hottest afternoons in July and August. This dry processed version from Kochere adds an interesting twist to that classic Yirgacheffe profile. You’ll recognize the lemony black tea immediately, but this time with a spritz of raspberry.
We love this coffee on any pourover method of your choice, Chemex or Kalita being ideal. But, a French press will serve you well with this coffee, too. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!