Small Lot Ethiopian Hambela Natural

Coffee is at the very heart of the culture in Ethiopia; it's at the core of both their heritage and social culture. Although the quality of the coffee produced in Ethiopia is among the world's best and most diverse, the emphasis on quality for internal consumption is largely overshadowed by its role in social culture through the tradition of coffee ceremonies. These ceremonies happen as often as three times a day, an invitation of which is considered a mark of friendship. Coffee ceremonies are treated as the main social event within the village where topics related to the community, politics and just about every area of life are discussed. The people in Ethiopia are full of heart and are among the happiest and most generous of anyone I have ever come across throughout the globe. Furthermore, the pursuit of excellence among Ethiopians is second to none, and I don't mean that half-heartedly.

I believe that these remarkable cultural attributes are an extension of the communication and sense of community that has evolved from coffee ceremonies; hence, coffee's greatest virtue is its magnetism for conversation! I originally entered this country under the assumption that the greatest attribute toward the magnificence of its coffee was in the terroir, but I was wrong. The secret behind Ethiopian coffee is the character of the Ethiopian people and the relentless pursuit of excellence which guides their lives.

Hambela is a 200-hectare (494 acre) farm in the Hambela district in the Guji zone near the Oromia region state, about 75 kilometers from Yirgacheffe. (You may remember the coffees of Yirgacheffe for their floral, jasmine, grapefruit/lemon-like citrus characteristics.) This farm is a great example of the endearing characteristics of the Ethiopian people. The coffee fruit that is developed here is fantastic. They harvest the coffee cherries when they are purple which tends to add a really pleasant winey-ness, and often times, syrupy-sweet depth and body. The cherries are well-harvested, sorted and then processed traditionally, or "dry-processed". In dry-processing the fruit is left to dry on the seed (aka coffee bean) versus the washed process where the flesh is pulped right away and the beans left to ferment with water. Dry-processing coffee is, in my experience, the most difficult for farmers to produce well. It's easy to over ferment the coffee berries during the drying process and many farmers don't achieve the optimal raking rotations, drying, storage, and curing times for their particular coffee. The production of natural processed coffees has improved exceedingly over the past ten years; it's easier to find good ones than it used to be. Finding an exceptional natural, however, is quite the journey. After seemingly countless samples of other naturals from the same region, this one shined the most and has tremendous dimension. The farm has over 700 seasonal staff members, 70% of which are women. Additionally, the farm provides training for over 700 growers in the surrounding area and has adopted a school with more than 400 students. One of the projects they are currently working on is the development of a well for the school.

This coffee has a fruit-driven profile, meaning the primary drive or thrust of it is toward fruity characteristics. In the case of this Small Lot Ethiopian Hambela, think deep, syrupy blackberry jam with a very balanced and juicy, citrus-like zest or brightness. There are also a lot of florals and spice - think bergamot, lavender and cinnamon. The finish is rich and syrupy-sweet with a milk chocolate/cocoa nib-like resonance.