You see that beautiful turquoise bag and you know it’s Cat & Cloud! Today I’m checking out their current natural Ethiopian selection that I picked up while in Des Moines over Thanksgiving. Let’s dive in!
CAT & CLOUD ETHIOPIA KERCHA NATURAL
I was up in Des Moines, IA over the Thanksgiving weekend visiting the fam and decided to make a run downtown on Friday morning to Horizon Line Coffee downtown (I bought one of their coffees to review, too, and I’ll have a write-up on the cafe coming out soon so stay tuned). There’s not a ton of specialty coffee kicking off in Des Moines just yet, but the big bonus is that it’s maybe another four minutes to drive from Horizon Line over to Mars Cafe by Drake University, so you can hit the two I know about while you’re still giving your pourover a minute to cool down! I was catching up on some back episodes of the Cat & Cloud Podcast recently and when Chris mentioned that he had met and spoken with the owner of Mars Cafe in Des Moines, I had a feeling they may have picked them up as an account. Mars Cafe does great coffee and, until recently, I’ve always known them as a Kickapoo account. They’re still carrying and brewing Kickapoo, but as suspected, Mars added Cat & Cloud recently, so I pulled up for a shot of The Answer (excellent) and purchased this bag of Cat & Cloud’s current Ethiopian natural.
Yep, even with 20+ bags of coffee on the counter at all times waiting for reviews, even I find myself buying coffee. I came home with two bags and wondered at what moment during this KC Coffee Geek thing I actually lost my mind. Then I stopped caring because, you know, coffee! LOL Cat & Cloud and I agree that Ethiopian naturals are often the gateway coffee for people from macro grocery store brews into the world of specialty coffee. They’re not-so-subtle and when you get that blueberry punch for the first time, there’s no mistaking that something is going on in that coffee that you were missing from the roasted-sometime-this-year stuff on the shelf. Cat & Cloud try to make their naturals particularly accessible for this reason. I know as a coffee geek/reviewer/whatever I’m supposed to turn my nose up at naturals, but I still love them and for me, the funkier they are, the better, even. Bring ’em on!
This selection from Cat & Cloud is their Kercha from Guji, a region of Ethiopia well-known for their dry process/”natural” coffees. These coffees are picked and sorted by hand, then dried with the cherry fruit still totally intact, on raised beds. These coffee cherries basically dry out like big raisins and the little seeds inside (coffee beans) soak up a lot of chemicals during this process that have fruity, sweet flavors. Yum. This coffee was grown around 1700-2000masl and, as is the custom in Ethiopia, it’s a mixed lot of heirloom varieties (thousands of nameless varieties grow all over the country) collected by smallholder farmers at a co-op where their lots are mixed, sorted and sold to roasters like Cat & Cloud (with some middlemen involved, usually). C&C give us tasting notes of, “blueberry, chocolate chips, port sweetness.” My bag was roasted around 11/9/17 and I bought it on Thanksgiving weekend and have been making cups since. I know that’s a little long in the tooth for some drinkers, but I don’t mind the least when a coffee is only 3-4 weeks old. Not a problem.
I used my standard pourover setup for this coffee, a 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino using Third Wave Water and a Handground grinder set to 3. I get a lot of blueberry in the aroma from this coffee and it even has a really blueberry “room note,” where I felt like my office was submerged in a box of Booberry cereal while I typed this! Berries are definitely present on my palate, too, although as I’ve developed my palate and drunk A LOT of naturals over the years, these coffees taste more like other berries than blueberries, to me, usually. That being said I am getting some pretty good sweet blueberry vibes from this coffee. I get a bit of a floral note, too, that I associate with blackberries, so I’m calling this blackberry, too. This coffee has a nice, silky mouthfeel and medium-heavy body with a sweet finish, which all adds up to it being a very easy drinking coffee and something that encourages you to take rapid sips. Try to exercise some restraint, though, because letting this cup cool down some will really open up the flavors and sweetness, and in the last half of the sip and into the beginning of the aftertaste is where I find some cocoa notes and hints of milk chocolate.
I did get more chocolatey and even a spicy, hard-to-pin-down note that was exceptional, from this coffee when I brewed it immeditely after opening my bag that I didn’t get on subsequent brews. So, something really tasty volatalized off the coffee after it got exposed to more air. That first cup was borderline magical for me, tasting a warm, spicy, chocolatey (like a spiced Mexican chocolate, in a way) that I have never tasted in an Ethiopian natural before. It was sublime. That being said, even without that note, this is a kick-ass cup of coffee! Even using Third Wave Water, which tends to amplify the acidity in a coffee, the perceived acidity for me in this cup is low. There is a nice, mellow high end from the fruity flavors, but I’m not really getting the lime or lemon acidity I often get from Ethiopian coffees. Being that Cat & Cloud considers their natural selections to be a gateway drug into the world of specialty coffee, I think this is a bonus, as acidity is often mistaken for “sourness” by new coffee drinkers. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be sucked in by this syrupy, sweet but balanced chocolate-berry fruit bomb. Expertly crafted and I was happy to spend around $20 on this bag of coffee + a shot of The Answer at Mars Cafe.