When northwest Arkansas’s amazing Onyx Coffee Lab sent me some coffee, recently, they included two bags of the same coffee processed different ways. I am an absolute sucker for things like this because it’s such a good way to learn about the effects processing has on cup flavor. I love, love, love comparison opportunities like this! Today I’m looking at a natural Ethiopian coffee and then later this week we’ll see the washed version, so stay tuned!
ONYX COFFEE LAB ETHIOPIA HAMBELA BUKU NATURAL
I’m starting the week off this morning with this natural from the Hambela Estate in the Guji zone of Ethiopia. With thousands of coffee heirloom varietals growing naturally and, often, wildly, in Ethiopia, this coffee is a mix of varietals grown around 2000masl. Hambela Estate is owned by an agricultural development company today, but has roots going back to WWII when the Ethiopian emperor awarded land in the Sidamo and Harrar regions to Muluemebet Emiru, the first known African female pilot. METAD, the company that owns the estate, takes very good care of the farmers and workers there and Hambela Estate is highly regarded in the coffee community for both its agricultural practices as well as their social ones.
This is the third year Onyx has worked with Hambela Estate and the farm has gone completely organic this year. They give us tasting notes of, “Strawberry, coconut milk, kiwi, lime zest, cocoa” for this high-scoring coffee as well as some preparation suggestions. They recommend brewing with a paper filter, and the thicker the better. I am out of Chemex filters, so I used my usual notNeutral Gino with Kalita 185 filters. They’re a lot thinner than a Chemex filter, but that’s life. They also recommend a hard, turbulent pour because this coffee is heavy and has a slow drain time. I noticed that as I was making my cups and so it was nice validation to read that on Onyx’s site and getting some confirmation of what I’d already noticed! Onyx also says this coffee works well as a single origin espresso. I used a 1:16 ratio in my pourovers, so 28g coffee and 450g water.
This coffee caught my attention as it was brewing because the steam coming off the top of the Gino smelled awesome. For me, this is unusual. Most of the time the aromas off the brewer are so-so at best, or even not-so-wonderful. This coffee smelled sweet and floral right off the brewer and there was something else very familiar, too. After a few more seconds of huffing coffee fumes I realized it reminded me almost exactly of the aroma of Blue Moon, the very coriander-forward Belgian wit style beer! LOL Interestingly none of that made it into the cup aroma, but still.
In the cup the aroma was sweet with a bit of floral notes flitting around. This is an absolute stunner of a coffee. It has nice body, solidly medium, with a creamy mouthfeel. Right up front I get really fresh strawberries and a little lime acidity that is a perfect complement to the strawberries. Mid-sip is just soft and round and big and full of a strawberries and cream type feel and note. Absolutely delicious! The finish is sweet on this cup and also bright, with that lime zest acidity coming back in the aftertaste along with hints of the coriander I noticed in the brew aroma. The aftertaste drops off quite quickly, but there is lingering acidity on the tongue (hard to describe) and, again, a bit of that coriander note, for me, that lasts a while. In the cooling cup the finish and aftertaste had notes of coconut in it, too.
I get no hints of ferment in this cup, which is unusual for an Ethiopian natural and my palate. Plus, I actually look for the ferment because I really like it. This is an extremely clean natural and the flavors are absolutely awesome. The fear many people have of lighter roasts, bright coffees is that they fall off quickly after roasting, but as always I revisited this coffee as I typed my review this morning and with a roast date of 8/8/16, this one is still absolutely rocking. It’s for coffees like this that I hold Onyx Coffee Lab in such high “can-do-no-wrong” regard because this is just freaking amazingly good!