- April 2019
- Written by : Michael Sheridan
Director of Sourcing & Shared Value / Green Coffee Buyer
Light and shade are central themes for Illumination Blend, whose story begins at the beginning, in the place where coffee was born.
Coffee first grew wild in the shaded understory of the lush forests of southwestern Ethiopia. Centuries ago, the bright red coffee cherry caught the attention of the nomads and pastoralists who occupied the region, who discovered its healing properties and life-giving force. The country’s coffee groves have remained a subject of fascination ever since. Today we obsess over Ethiopia’s coffee not for its medicinal or energetic traits, but as a source of delight. Ethiopia remains a wellspring of flavor, the source of the most delicate, elegant, and delicious coffees in the world.
Coffee seeds found their way out of Ethiopia, across the Red Sea to Yemen and from there to Asia and the Americas, making possible the rise of a thriving global coffee trade. But they were good for more than commerce. The coffee seed, an Ethiopian technology, has been the source of endless inspiration and illumination, firing the imaginations of revolutionaries and writers, artists and abolitionists, inventors and industrialists, often in spaces created expressly for the enjoyment of coffee. Those seeds made possible the creation of a global coffee culture.
Nowhere is that culture more pervasive than Ethiopia, where coffee is roasted in nearly every home as many as three or four times a day and is served with no little ceremony to mark every social engagement, large or small.
It is only fitting, then, that we would build a blend designed to enlighten around a luminous single-origin coffee from the source of all that enlightenment: our organic Ethiopia Kurimi. For the inaugural edition of Illumination Blend, Our Quality Control team combined the mesmerizing floral aromas and tropical fruit sweetness of Kurimi with the rounded sweetness and silky body of a lot from the farmers behind our organic Peru Cruz del Sur.
Both were grown, as nature intended, in the shade of diverse forest canopies, one in the legendary Ethiopian origin Yirgacheffe, the other in a village in the San Ignacio region of the Peruvian Andes. The shaded coffee groves where these lots were grown don’t just contribute to greater sweetness and more complex flavors. They also represent the best bet for coffee in a planet getting hotter and drier in an era of accelerated climate change.
And like most of the world’s coffees, they were grown by small-scale family farmers.
They come to us from two of the most exciting additions to our Direct Trade network in recent years.
In Ethiopia, we have been working since 2013 with the Adinew family, whose company Metad has applied uncommonly rigorous quality controls to heirloom Ethiopian varieties to stunning effect, producing flawless coffees year after year that stand out for their sweetness, complexity and crystalline clarity. This lot comes from small-scale family farmers whose coffees were processed by Metad.
In Peru, we have been working since 2014 with a group of determined growers in the village of Alto Ihuamaca who formed a farmer organization a few years ago an immodest objective: become a leader in Peru’s recent coffee quality revolution. Three seasons into our collaboration with Café Solidario, it seems they are well on their way to achieving their goal.
The results of the combined efforts of the growers in Ethiopia and Peru who contributed to this lot deliver a molasses sweetness and shine bright with flavors of cranberry and mandarin orange.
This year-round blend will be refreshed this summer, when our Quality Control team will combine a fresh-crop organic Ethiopian with the best of our seasonal organic coffees. The recipe may change, but the big idea behind this blend won’t: to create a beacon that illuminates a path to continued exploration and discovery of the endless delight and extraordinary diversity and of coffee’s flavors.