Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and the crops that end up in our cups are as diverse as the number of heirloom varietals that grow there, estimated to be in the thousands. Today’s coffee is from the Guji Zone and it was roasted in San Diego, CA by up-and-comers Manzanita Roasting Co. I’ve enjoyed a handful of other coffees from Manzanita already and the company’s founders have deep roots in the world of food and wine, so they know a thing or two about flavors! You can buy this coffee directly from Manzanita Roasting Co. for $17/12oz bag.
The Guji Zone where this coffee comes from is part of the Sidama region of southern Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe is found in Sidama, too. A quick word on terminology… the language of Ethiopia is Amharic and there is no agreed-upon way of translating characters into English. That’s why you see Sidama and Sidamo interchangeably, or “Yirgachefe” spelled with one “f” or two. There is no “correct” spelling in the first place! While you can find naturals from this area of Ethiopia, it’s best known for bright, washed coffees with lots of lemon and tea-like notes. I’ve had coffees from this area that, if I was blind tasting, I would’ve sworn were black tea with a spritz of lemon! Manzanita tells us this coffee grows at 1900-2000masl and is a Grade 1 selection, but I’m not sure which co-op or processing station it traces back to.
Manzanita says, “This coffee bean has a nice, fairly rich body” and that it “works well as a pourover, drip or as a single origin espresso.” Tasting notes on the bag read, “Nectarine, grapefruit, caramel.” I will admit that Ethiopian coffees haven’t been doing much for me as of late, but let’s see if this one can break my funk and get me back on the Ethiopia train!
I’m using my trusty 1:16 ratio (28g coffee, 450g water) in the notNeutral Gino pourover with Kalita 185 filters and a total brew time in the 3:30-3:45 range. I’m also going to rip some espresso shots with this coffee and I’ll report on those next.
As a pourover, this is a pretty good representation of what I would call a classic washed Ethiopian coffee from this region. It is balanced and clean with a light caramel sweetness and a delicate lemon acidity that brightens it up. The flavors are pronounced yet the body is on the light side of medium, or maybe on the heavy side of light, however you want to look at it. There is kind of a spiced note in the second half of the sip and aftertaste that is hard to pin down. It’s not peppery and it leans toward the common baking spices family, but I can’t really suss it out any more than that. It adds some dimension to go after, which is nice. The finish is pretty neutral, neither too dry nor too sweet and there is definitely a tea-like vibe to this cup. The lemon acidity gets a little more pronounced as the cup cools, but it’s quite delicate and balances nicely with the also relatively delicate sweetness in the cup. As a pourover, this is a nice, classic cup of Guji. It’s clean and bright and super-balanced, making it drinkable and inviting. I’m not finding a lot of complexity in it or anything unexpected, but those things can detract from a cup as easily as they can add to it.
After a fair amount of burned dial-in shots, I settled on about a 1:2 ratio for pulling shots of this coffee as espresso. As a single origin espresso, it was pretty good. As espresso, this coffee is all about the acidity, so it makes for a bright, West Coast-style third wave shot and if more traditional Italian-style espresso is your thing, you won’t find it here. There is a lot of lemon and lime in this coffee as espresso with a somewhat dry finish and sweetness that reminded me of dark chocolate. The body was a little thin, as was the crema (not a sign of anything, quality-wise, in my opinion), but overall it was certainly tasty.
For me, this coffee is better as a pourover. I got that classic washed Ethiopian flavor profile from it and it was a nice drinker. As espresso, it was good, and the acidity was definitely highlighted but not out of balance. My tastes generally lean toward big bodied, traditional espresso with lots of chocolate and caramel, so you have to take that into consideration, too.
Manzanita have done another great job roasting this coffee and it’s a nice addition to their lineup, showing classic notes and versatility.