Here it is, mid-March in Portland, and I’m watching snow fall outside my window. This may be a passing snow shower, but the face remains that it’s one of several that we’ve gotten this week, and that’s just not right. We’re not supposed to get snow in March, especially out here in the PacificNorthwest.
It’s on afternoons like this that my mind most readily turn to thoughts of slow-roasted dinners and steaming carafes of french press coffee. Which, thankfully, are both occurring at this very moment. And the coffee in that carafe is from our local favorite, Coava Coffee.
Located in southeast Portland, we’ve developed a ritual of starting off every Friday by going to Coava for coffee and a pastry before making our way to work. Their space is perfect for this, and the coffee is always great. And nearly every Friday we finish up our visit by picking up a pound of coffee to last us through the weekend.
This week we opted for their current offering of Ethiopian coffee, sourced from the village of Rophi in southern Ethiopia. The village is located in the Borena Hagermariam District, in the Sidama region of Ethiopia, and entirely subsists on coffee farming. The beans are grown at altitudes of 1750-1800 meters and are all heirloom varietals. This is the same area from which Coava sourced the Kilenso coffee that they were roasting last year.
The coffee is naturally processed, meaning that the coffee cherries were left in the sun to dry for several weeks before they are sent to a mill to have the dried cherry pulp is removed via a process called hulling. This is the typical method for producing African coffee, and is a part of the reason for these coffees having a reputation for being deep-bodied, fruity and sweet coffees. Because the cherry pulp remains in contact with the bean during the long drying process, the idea is that flavors from the cherry influence the final flavor of the coffee beans themselves. This is in contrast to the wet process, whereby the cherry pulp is washed from the bean prior to drying, which produces a brighter and cleaner coffee.
We’ve had this coffee several times from Coava, and it is quite good, if somewhat different from the expectations you may have for an African coffee. Their tasting notes kind of say it all, “Taste Notes: Strawberry / Hibiscus / Carob”. These aren’t your typical descriptors for an Ethiopian coffee, which more often features more deeply fruity flavors. I attribute much of this to Coava’s roasting process, which favors a lighter roast for all of their coffees, and I suspect they look for coffees that work well with this approach. In this case, the Rophi works quite well, displaying a pleasing range of flavors and a harmonious cup of coffee.
Right after being ground, the distinct aroma of blueberries rises up out of the french press, and at first pour the coffee does too. This transitions to notes of almonds, raisins, and berries. The palate is lightly sweet and mouth-filling with soft acidity. Flavors of raisin, and cocoa nib are balanced by a smoky herbal element, something along the lines of smoked paprika and curry leaves. All in all, the coffee is delicate while still being full bodied, not heavy at all. The finish wraps up with more lingering sweetness, and flavors of cocoa and licorice.
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