January may be a month for new beginnings but we decided to pay tribute to one of our all-time favorite coffees, the amazing and certified organic Limmu Natural from Ethiopia. This single farmer coffee is a limited edition, small batch that our roasters have masterfully perfected.
Coffee in Ethiopia
Not only is Ethiopia the birthplace of Arabica coffee, but it is undoubtedly one of the most popular coffee origins in the world. Many of its regions are well-known for their coveted varietals and sought-after flavor profiles.
Its high altitudes, ideal climates, and diverse landscapes make it somewhat of a coffee growing paradise. In fact, there is so much possibility for different coffees that finding a unique, exceptional, and traceable coffee in Ethiopia can be a challenge. Luckily, many of the farmers throughout the country are actively building strong relationships with coffee buyers and continuing to improve their crops year after year.
Our certified organic Ethiopia Limmu Natural comes from one such farmer, Kossa Geshe, and his single farm plantation in the Limmu district, near the Kebena Forest about 30 miles north of the city Jimma. It is harvested between August and October at altitudes between 5900-7000 ft. The large Jimma region of Western Ethiopia is home to some of the most diverse varietals, cup profiles, and processing styles in the country. The Limmu Natural was a unanimously high scoring standout at the 2014/2015 Ethiopia Taste of Harvest competition, recognized by cuppers and judges alike.
Arabica coffee grows wild in many of Ethiopia’s lush mountain forests, and covers about 400,000 hectares (988,422 acres) of land throughout the country. It is Ethiopia’s most important export, directly affecting the lives of over 15 million people. Ethiopia produces roughly 220,462 tons of clean coffee each year, 98% of which is thanks to workers on small farms. Fortunately, more and more cooperatives and partnerships are forming that give these small scale farmers increased equity and access to services and compensation that they haven’t received in the past.
A Unique Bean
Brad Kirby, Director of Coffee for Stockton Graham & Co, exclusive roaster for Dilworth Coffee, was very pleased to share the incredible flavors of this single origin organic coffee during a tasting. “This one has a nice balance of acidity and body,” said Kirby. “It is kind of a departure for us because it is really expensive. We bought twice as much as we did last year because it is just so good.”
The first, most striking detail about this coffee is the aroma. Before the beans are even roasted, they have a powerful fragrance of sweet fruit with floral undertones. As Kirby brewed the freshly ground coffee for the tasting the room began to fill with the unexpected aromas of ripe strawberries and jam.
“Because this coffee is natural processed, it has a more substantial body and slightly lower acidity than washed coffees from the same region,” said Kirby. “What’s great about the Limmu Natural though, is that it still produces an exceptionally clean cup in which the berry notes carry through from start to finish. This was processed perfectly. It has more body and fruitiness than a Yirgacheffe, with a satisfying tartness at the end.”
Continued Kirby, “I would recommend brewing this almost any way you like. Its best use is probably a single cup offering. That being said, this next-level coffee will be excellent no matter how you prepare it.”
Coffee processing is a catch-all term that is used to describe the different processes by which the fruit—the sweet, fleshier outer part of the coffee cherry that most coffee drinkers sadly never get to taste— is removed from the seed inside the fruit, which is shipped around the world and roasted. One such style of processing is called “natural processing,” in which a coffee cherry is passively dried to separate seed from the pulp. Over the years, this natural processing method, which has been used for thousands of years and has a spiritual home in Ethiopia, has been seen as a lesser method of coffee production to a roast-ready bean when compared to washed processes, a much more modern method of using water to “wash” the fruit off the seed. Washing, the thinking goes, yields a cleaner and more balanced cup, with fewer defects.
But there are distinct benefits and lots of exciting aspects to the natural drying process that make it interesting and desirable, as we experience with the Limmu Natural. The method is increasingly en vogue in coffee growing regions outside of Ethiopia, where progressive coffee producers are thinking outside of the box and, in some ways, getting back to a more ancient method of coffee processing. And they’ve been greatly encouraged in their efforts by various progressive green coffee buyers, including both importers and direct emissaries from your favorite coffee roaster.