Alaka Organic Ethiopia Limited Release
- July 2017
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President of Coffee / Green Coffee Buyer
Words are not enough.
Explaining the allure of Ethiopian coffee is a difficult thing to do, much in the same way that it is impossible to communicate the value and visceral impact of masterful artwork using only some combination of letters, even for the most talented of poets. That’s just the way it is—we don’t have a language that is capable of capturing the emotional intensity and profoundly soulful feeling that we experience when we witness exquisite beauty.
Fortunately there is a shortcut: when you taste one there is no need for supplemental narrative; your senses know what to do and understanding comes quickly. It begins with the fragrance. A fresh ground sample or freshly brewed cup of this coffee is downright pretty, with soft and welcoming tea-like fragrances that hint at what is to come. Once the coffee has cooled to drinking temperature the delicate fruit acids and fresh floral traits present themselves clearly and in abundance, never coming across as aggressive because of the ever-present sweetness that envelopes all that flavor. This coffee is eloquent, effusive and unforgettable: coffee’s answer to the finest champagne.
Our Tikur Anbessa project is located in a sliver of Ethiopia’s Guji zone called Hambela Wamena that is home to the sister villages of Benti Nenqa and Buku. Those villages, in turn, are made up of hamlets called kebeles in Amharic. For three consecutive seasons, we have been working with more than 700 farmers in a handful of kebeles across Benti Nenqa and Buku. Most share some fundamental character traits with those from neighboring areas where we also source coffee—the growing conditions are very similar, and farmers are mostly selecting from the same basket of varieties. The post-harvest processing, being handled meticulously by METAD, is another common trait—it is top notch across the board. But the nuances that make individual lots distinct from one another come about as a result of small differences between kabeles in microclimate, soil microbiology, harvest details and other variables that reflect the environmental and human contributions to the production of these coffees.
Sometimes, while sorting through harvest lots from the various communities in Hambela Wamena we come across a standout that exhibits an especially pronounced sweetness or particularly noteworthy flavor trait that catches our attention and calls out for a spot on the shelf. This year one of the batches of coffee from a kebele called Alaka (ah-LAKH-ah) was a favorite among the Intelligentsia cupping team.
Alaka is the location of METAD’s farm and primary wet-milling facility, and was the first place the Aman Adinew and the team at METAD invested in coffee-focused services for the community. Before they started working in the area, communities grew beans, maize and various other staple food crops. Coffee was not a major source of income. But that changed when they distributed over 300,000 coffee seedlings to growers there and provided both pre and post-harvest training to farmers living on the outskirts of the METAD farm, who are now intercropping coffee and food crops with great results. METAD is also funding a school there that serves over seven hundred students, and that number is growing each year. This is just a small example of how the establishment of a progressive, quality focused coffee operation—when done right, and designed with a long term vision-- can yield a cascade of benefits for all those it touches.
We were so impressed with the coffee and its origins that we wanted to offer you a small lot of it alongside our flagship Tikur Anbessa. Our Alaka Organic Ethiopia Limited Release delivers exquisite flavors of pomelo, wildflower honey and white peach.