I have never set foot on Ethiopian soil, let alone anywhere on the African continent. But my favourite coffee beans come from the highlands of Ethiopia.
The first ever bag of Ethiopian beans I tried was the Organic Ethiopia Guji from Mt Whitney Coffee Roasters. While it made a nice cup of pour over coffee, I wasn’t particularly impressed with its flavour.
But to be fair, this was during the “infant stage” of my V60 journey, before I took my brewing seriously and didn’t even own a timer scale, proper grinder or gooseneck kettle.
After I acquired a decent set of equipment and started making consistently good cups every morning, the bright and fruity notes that Ethiopian coffees are known for started emerging. Now, whenever we stock up on beans from Mt Whitney, we always choose their Ethiopian ones.
However, the potential of how good the beans could taste was only revealed after we visited Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee and got a bag of their Ethiopia Uraga Gomoro, which was highly recommended by their barista. The blueberry flavour explosion was truly an eye-opener, and cemented the number one position of Ethiopian single-origin beans.
Since then, my eyes light up whenever I see Ethiopian beans available from local roasters and I can’t help but grab a bag or two; or in the case of the sampler pack from The Caffeine Peddler, three.
Specifically, they were the Ethiopia Sidamo Cherry Red, Ethiopia Kilenso and Ethiopia Limou. The first two originate from the Sidamo region while the last comes from Limou, further up north and to the west.
The main thing that struck us as we sampled and compared the three different bags was how distinct each of them tasted. The prominent notes that we picked up from the Sidamo Cherry Red, Kilenso and Limou were pu’er tea, strawberry and lemon respectively.
This piqued my curiosity and I started reading more about Ethiopian geography, specifically its various coffee-growing regions. The map below from coffeegeography.com provides a colourful overview, with more information available in articles from perfectdailygrind.com and coffeehunter.com.
So far, I had brewed coffee from Guji, Sidamo and Limou but what I was clearly missing was coffee from Yirgacheffe, possibly the most famous coffee-producing region in Ethiopia. It’s technically part of Sidamo, but has been carved out as a separate trademarked micro-region due to the high quality of its beans.
Perk Coffee was running a promotion that offered the first bag free if I signed up for their subscription service and paid $2 for SingPost delivery. That was quite a compelling offer, especially since they had an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe in their selection.
Tasting notes on the bag indicated “lavender, peach and wild berry” and while we couldn’t taste any hints of lavender or peach, the berry flavour was clearly present. It wasn’t as amazing as Tiong Hoe’s Uraga Gomoro, but it was still a perfectly good cup and one that I’d be willing to continue ordering under their subscription service.
Speaking of which, I found the flexibility of their website quite good. I could easily change the choice of beans for the upcoming bag and specify the next roast date, even up to six months in the future! Flexibility that many other coffee subscription services in Singapore don’t offer.
Moving back from Yirgacheffe to Guji, one particular bag that I had always wanted to try was the Suke Quto from PPP Coffee, named after the source farm in Shakiso, Guji.
I didn’t get round to buying a bag all these months until one day, The Wife was in the vicinity of Funan Mall, and I asked her to pop in and buy one home from their store on the second floor.
My very first whiff of the very first grind was very interesting. It gave off a faint and pleasant scent of curry powder, something that I had never encountered before! The tasting notes didn’t mention this but said instead: “peach, Earl Grey tea with a citrus finish”.
When I took my first sip, I was half-expecting to taste some form of curry but got Earl Grey with undernotes of lychee instead, with a clean aftertaste. It was a very tasty cup of coffee, and among all the coffees we’ve had so far, this was firmly in second place.
The previous one from Tiong Hoe was still the clear leader, but it’s pricier and not always available. This Suke Quto seems to be in PPP’s permanent collection and costs 35% less than the Uraga Gomoro, giving it a great cost/performance score.
I’m even tempted to replace our baseline beans from the Mt Whitney Ethiopia to this instead, even though they are 60% more expensive. But I’ll have to try beans from other local roasters first before making the decision to switch.
One of the local roasters on my shortlist is Dutch Colony Coffee and I’m currently going through a bag of their Kochere Banco Gotete from Yirgacheffe.
It took me four tries but I eventually settled on the Sweet x Strong variant of the Tetsu 4-6 recipe, which yielded a good balance of flavour and body, with sweet fruity notes and a citrus finish. This bag was not quite as nice as the one from PPP, but it did taste better than Perk’s.
While the Kochere Banco Gotete is currently the only Ethiopian offered by Dutch Colony, I have seen several different ones on their website in the past. Perhaps when new stocks arrive, I’ll increase the sample size and give the others a try.
I doubt that I’ll ever make my way to Ethiopia in my lifetime, but at least I’m able to travel there virtually by brewing and drinking the wonderful coffee that is grown there, right in the comfort of home.