You know when you’re drinking Yirgacheffe—it’s not like other coffees. To those who never venture beyond Central American roasts, the taste may seem as exotic as it’s origins. We imagine some wise, old sage sitting upon a cliff proclaiming: “Entry to coffee geekdom starts with a cup of Yirgacheffe.” There’s a reason why Ethiopian Yirgacheffe consistently ranks among the best coffee in the world, and certainly the among the best in Ethiopia itself. Origin of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee Yirgacheffe (also spelled Yirgachefe, Yergacheffe, or Yerga Chefe) is a micro-region within the much larger region of Sidama (or Sidomo) in southern Ethiopia. It is widely considered the birthplace of coffee. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has a light to medium body (although they can be full body as well). As is typical with other coffees from this region, it has a distinctively fruity flavor profile and a bright, floral aroma thanks to wet-processed beans cultivated at a high elevation (between 5,800 to 6,600 ft). FACTOID: Ethiopia is the motherland of all Arabica coffee. When coffee was taken to other countries, people had to find ways to adapt it to the local climate. That’s Arabica coffee grows best in places that have climates similar to that of Ethiopia: mountainous, tropical, with moderate wet and dry seasons. Ethiopian Coffee Buying Manual, USAID, 2011. What to Look For in a High Quality Ethiopian Yirgacheffe It’s difficult to generalize the flavor of Ethiopian coffees. Each region has its own unique flavors, which can vary from farm to farm, season to season. Plus, the method of processing (wet vs. dry) and roast level can significantly alter certain highlights even from the same bean. But the high elevation of Ethiopia produces a hard bean, resulting in intense flavors and aromatics. Top grade Yirgacheffes have a very clean taste and exhibit bright acidity along with complex floral and citrusy notes (generally the washed or wet-processed beans). Dry-processed beans may exhibit slightly nutty or chocolaty qualities, but it tends to be overshadowed by the Yirgacheffe’s robust fruitiness depending on the roast level, and won’t taste as clean as the washed varietals. Why Wet-Processed Beans Matter Most people enjoy a quality Yirgacheffe for its floral, fruity, and tea-like finish. These qualities are attributable to wet-processing. So what is wet processing? As soon as the beans are harvested, and still moist, the coffee cherry is washed off to remove the skin and pulp of the fruit. Then, the beans are soaked in water fermentation tanks for 24-72 hours, then dried. Wet processing results in higher acidity than dry processed methods, which gives Yirgacheffe that “clean” taste. There’s nothing wrong with naturally (dry) processed Yirgacheffe. It’s a matter of taste. We prefer the washed Yirgacheffe because it has more clarity. Unwashed Yirgacheffe tends to have less acidity and a fuller body that doesn’t taste as “clean” as washed Yirgacheffe. Brewing Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Whatever the brew...Read More
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