Tanager is a small roasting operation run by coffee roaster, humanitarian and all-around good guy, CJ Speelman. He got into coffee in a roundabout way, and you can read all about his story in this excellent article from Eater written by another one of my Portland pals, Emily McIntyre (Catalyst Coffee Consulting). I had a couple beers with CJ last time I was in Portland and he was gracious enough to hook me up with some samples of his current coffee offerings.
This particular one is a washed coffee from Oromia, in southern Ethiopia’s Guji Zone. The coffees grown here are heirloom varietals and can be found around 1700masl.
Washed Ethiopian coffees always throw me for a loop because I associate Ethiopian coffees with the big, bold, jammy naturals that I love so much, and their washed coffees are much more subtle and refined. They require a shift in my expectations and a recalibration of my palate to a certain extent.
This Guji Uraga is particularly subtle. My first cup was made using Heart Roasters’ upright AeroPress recipe which I’ve had a lot of good luck with in the past. In my opinion the coffee prepared this way had more in common with tea than coffee, something that I already find true in many of the washed Ethiopians. This Tanager sample had black tea flavors and some lemony acidity. As it cooled there were little hints of raspberries, but the body was very thin and the aftertaste was really short and I wasn’t enjoying drinking it a whole heck of a lot.
I switched to the Gino dripper for my other evaluation cups and the coffee did much better with this pourover method. The body was more substantial, although still a little on the thin side. The raspberry and lemon flavors could be found in the acidity of the coffee which was nice yet subtle and there were still substantial notes of black tea throughout. I found perfume and floral notes in the aroma of the coffee and the acidity was pleasant and round without any bracing or bite of, say, a Kenyan coffee.
Overall this is a nice coffee and CJ has done a great job roasting it. Washed Ethiopians are subtle coffees, as a rule, and this one from Tanager is more subtle than most, so you have to understand that if you’re looking for a Ethiopian blueberry bomb, you won’t find it in this bag!