Kurimi Organic Ethiopia
- June 2016
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
“ Words are not enough. ”
Explaining the beauty of Ethiopian coffee is a difficult thing to do, much in the same way that it is very hard to communicate the value and the visceral impact of a masterful artwork using only words. That’s just the way it is—we don’t have a language that is capable of capturing the emotional intensity and profound soulfulness of great art.
To describe how the great Ethiopian coffees are so unbelievably full of life is a job best left to poets. 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 complements all that flavor. This coffee is eloquent, effusive, and exciting: coffee’s answer to the finest champagne.
There are definitive reasons why this coffee tastes so magical. For starters, remember that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. It is the one place on earth where native coffee varieties grow wild, and home to more genetic diversity in coffee than in the rest of the world combined. And coffee is not just a crop there—it is an essential element, deeply interwoven into the cultural fabric of Ethiopian life. Ethiopia boasts the most ancient and compelling traditions for coffee consumption that the world has seen, and it is celebrated daily in a way that would make Juan Valdez give up his poncho and his mule and pursue a life of meditation and monastic serenity.
Take the coffee ceremony, for example. It is extremely common for people to buy green coffees in the markets then take them home and prepare them in the living room using a pan to roast over coals, a mortar and pestle to grind, and a clay pot to boil and brew. The coffee ceremony is at once a social tradition, a celebration of the virtuous properties of coffee, and an opportunity for contemplation and reflection. Coffee is served over a period of time in three individual rounds—the Abol, Tona, and Baraka, each of which has its specific significance. Life without coffee is almost unimaginable—most people drink coffee in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, and sometimes late into the night. Ethiopia is one of only two producing countries that drink more than half of what they grow!
Given the natural advantages and profound coffee culture, it may be surprising that most of the coffees produced there are unfortunately mediocre. The reasons for this are many, but among the most important are lack of reliable access to resources and technical assistance that would help farmers bring their coffees to their peak potential. Another has to do with incentive—some of the idiosyncrasies of the local industry actually discourage investment in the kind of infrastructure and craftsmanship that leads to better quality outcomes. But these obstacles can be overcome with the right amount of intention and effort. This has been the motivation for the Kurimi project since the beginning—to connect with extraordinary producers and farmers who recognize the value of quality and are willing to put the work in to optimize the latent quality of Ethiopian coffee. We are thankful to be partnered with people who understand what it takes to produce excellence, and who share the belief that the clearest path to improved livelihoods and opportunity in the Ethiopian coffee sector is to elevate quality through collaboration and the establishment of systems for rewarding great work. Kurimi is a vehicle for us to showcase amazing coffees from an amazing country and is, more than anything else, a reverent applause for the beauty that results when human beings decide to honor these heirloom coffees by treating them as the treasures they are, and by doing all they can to preserve their intrinsic, unparalleled deliciousness.