One of my favorite things in coffee is getting the chance to have the same coffee processed different ways. Onyx Coffee Lab, from northwest Arkansas, came through in a big way recently by sending me this coffee from Ethiopia, as well as the natural version, which someone on Instagram said won a medal in a recent competition. I believe it! That natural was probably the best Ethiopian coffee I’ve had this year, so let’s see how the washed version stacks up!
ONYX COFFEE LAB ETHIOPIA HAMBELA BUKU WASHED
This is the third year that Onyx Coffee Lab has had a relationship with the Hambela estate in Ethiopia. Located in the Guji zone, this coffee is grown at a high altitude of 2000masl and it’s a mix of multiple heirloom coffee varietals, like most coffee lots from Ethiopia. It’s a washed coffee, meaning the cherry skins and pulps are removed before the beans are laid out to dry. Onyx’s Hambela Buku natural was so light and clean, it’s hard to imagine how this coffee could be even more so! Onyx gives us tasting notes of, “Lime, jasmine, bergamot, floral honey, berries” for this coffee. Yum!
I followed Onyx’s suggestions for preparing this cup and used my notNeutral Gino pourover. They recommend a Kalita Wave, which has three holes and a flat bottom and the Gino is the same basic design and even uses the same Kalita filters. I went with my usual 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water. This one drained a little faster than the natural so you won’t have to pour as hard to agitate the grounds nearly as much as with the natural coffee.
I was getting some floral notes in the aroma, although my allergies flared up pretty badly this morning and my nose may not be reporting back really great information! This coffee turned out to be more aggressive than I expected, although I would still say it had a medium-light body and a pretty short aftertaste. When it is in the palate, however, this coffee presents a lot of flavors quickly. As the cup cools there is definitely a bergamot aroma. Bergamot is a type of orange and it’s used in marmalades and some other food products. If you’re familiar with Earl Grey tea, then you’ve smelled and tasted bergamot as it is an essential ingredient.
The sip has a lot going on in it! There is a lot of citrus up front but also a big base of honey-like sweetness there. The acidity is what I would call lemon-lime… it’s bright but with a touch of bitterness, which is where the lime descriptor comes from for me. There is a little bit of a tea note for me in the cup, too, and a slightly dry feeling on my tongue in the finish, like when drinking tea, that reinforces that note. There’s something a little savory going on in this cup, too, and between the acidity profile, big sweetness of the cup and that savory note, there is a tomato vibe to this coffee that I can’t shake! Generally when I get “tomatoey” notes or flavors it’s from Kenyan coffees, but sometimes there’s just that perfect union of savory, sweet and brightness/tartness that screams, “I’m a tomato!!!!” and this coffee has it. It doesn’t taste like tomato juice or anything like that, it’s just a characteristic tone/note that reminds me a lot of tomato and I love it.
This is a really nice cup of coffee. It’s impossible not to compare it to its natural process brother, and that’s the only thing this coffee has going against it. This is a clean, interesting coffee and for a washed Ethiopian it has a bit bigger presence and weight on the palate, which I really enjoy. The natural version of this coffee was so unbelievably good, though, in a comparison of the two my vote has to be with the natural, but that shouldn’t take away from how awesome this coffee is, too! Onyx really scored with their lots from Hambela estate this year and, man, what a pair of great coffees! I’d recommend both just so you can see how much processing affects coffee flavors, but if you can only do one, it has to be the natty. And, now I’m sad because I’m done with my supply of Onyx coffees for the time being. Boohoo…