It has been a year since I had any coffee from Just Coffee Co-op to share with you and they recently sent me a couple of their current Ethiopian coffees, which is always exciting to me! This morning I’m taking a look at their limited lot Natural Sidama. Links and coffee below!
JUST COFFEE CO-OP NATURAL SIDAMA
Just Coffee Co-op is an organization of about 20 people based out of Madison, Wisconsin. I don’t know who the principal is behind the company or how they got their start in coffee, but they began importing coffee from Chiapas, Mexico and things snowballed from there. Since we can focus on coffee and not company stories this morning, let’s just dive right in!
According to Just’s website, this coffee scores 88 on the SCA’s scale, which is a pretty good coffee. I know if you look around at coffee reviews you’ll see a particular website that has been around for a long time that rates coffees commonly in the mid-90’s, but keep in mind those reviews are usually purchased and that site’s scale is whack! Really good specialty coffees commonly come in with scores in the mid to high 80’s when you’re scoring properly. A natural that scores an 88 is darn good. This is Just’s highest scoring coffee currently and they believe it really shows in the cup. This is an organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee. Being from Ethiopia, it was purchased on the Exchange from a co-op (in this case, the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union) consisting of many smallholder farmers. These farmers pool their coffee at the co-op where they are sorted and processed together, so you rarely see coffee from a single estate or farm from Ethiopia. These heirloom varieties grow around 1500-1700 meters above sea level and this is a naturally processed coffee.
Quick review on what “natural” coffees are… coffee is a fruit and the “bean” is actually the pit or seed in the middle of what looks a lot like a cherry. After coffee is harvested it needs to be processed and one of the ways this is done is with dry processing, often called “natural” process. This is labor-intensive, but uses no water, so there is a tradeoff. The coffee cherries are sorted by hand and then lots are laid out on patios or, most commonly in Ethiopia, on raised mesh beds. They are turned and circulated regularly and they begin to dry out and basically turn into what looks like big raisins. Inside the cherries the fruit starts to break down and ferment and coffee beans are like little flavor sponges, so they absorb a lot of the fermentation by-products, which come through as fruit flavors, usually berries. Yum! Naturals tend to be really sweet and have nice body to them, too.
Just Coffee gives us flavor notes of, “blueberry, raspberry, black currant” for this coffee. I can say that I don’t think I’ve ever had black currant, but I know I have lusted for a blueberry-forward coffee from Ethiopia for a long time. When I was first diving deep into specialty coffee, they were the norm, then the flavors shifted away from blueberry and more into strawberry, raspberry and blackberry. So, I’m hoping this one has that blueberry love I need!
I used my standard pourover setup for this coffee… 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water (Third Wave Water is what I am using) in a notNeutral Gino dripper. Handground grinder set on 3 and the total brew time including a 30 second bloom came out to 3:40 for this coffee.
The dry grounds had a heavy fragrance of blueberry and so I was really hoping to catch some in the flavors of the brewed cup and I was not disappointed. There is a lot of berry notes in this coffee, for sure. There is some blueberry, lots of raspberry and both blackberry and strawberry for me, too. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a natural Ethiopian where I can taste and separate out so many different berry notes, but they’re all there. Blueberry to me is a sweet sort of top note over everything in this cup and it reminds me of that sugary Booberry cereal my mom would never buy me as a kid. Raspberry has more of a muted tone for me, slightly earthier with a bit of tartness, too, while blackberry is similar but has an added floral note. All three of them are really prevalent in the sip for me. The strawberry comes in with the finish and aftertaste in this coffee. There is a healthy amount of ferment in this cup, which some people hate and others love. I like ferment flavors in natural coffees, a lot, personally. If I hold the coffee in my mouth and sort of agitate it while exhaling through my nose (retronasal breathing) I get basically a berry salad vibe but with a surprising amount of florals and almost perfumey notes with it, too. I think most of the brightness of this cup comes with all those berry notes, but there is some lemon-lime acidity in there, too. Definitely not a main player in this cup and the lime comes out with the strawberry in the finish and aftertaste (which lingers deliciously for a long time), but that hint of acidity does give the cup some balance and complexity.
This coffee has a medium-light roast and still gets plenty of body and a syrupy mouthfeel. There are hints of roast notes and maybe a bit of milk chocolate in the mix, too, but really this cup is all about sweet berry flavors and I love it! I think this is the most berry-forward coffee I’ve had in some time and it takes me back to the naturals that were ubiquitous 4-5 years ago! Definitely let this cup cool down some to get the most out of its sweetness and to pick up all those berry notes, but what a killer coffee. It’s like dessert in a cup! I’m definitely going to play with this one on the espresso machine, too!