Ethiopia Dreamin’

A few weeks back as the baseball season went into over-drive (Go Gigantes!), in an effort to stay awake for all of the games, I sought out great coffee.  I noticed a plethora of great Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees on local menus, including some on Bica’s. We decided to see if we could find a time when all six of Bica’s roasting partners were roasting coffees from the same country. The stars will align starting Saturday, 18OCT14 when we offer dreamy Ethiopian coffees of all kinds at Bica. Bica is uniquely positioned to pull this off. At no other coffeehouse will you find six of the highest quality roasters on one brew bar; to be able to feature a coffee from the same country….albeit Ethiopia, the home of the Arabica bean….is special indeed. It will allow us to really see the nuances in the coffees, various roasting styles, and micro-regions within one country. This really is becoming a bit like wine.

Bica’s GM, the Heisenberg of Brown Beans, Mr. White himself, Cameron goes deep on understanding the region, the beans, the chemistry. Not only does he procure the beans and manage all of the inventory, he also trains the BicaTeam so that they are authorities on whatever the topic is. Yesterday, Cameron put out a primer on naming conventions and tasting notes for each of our coffees that we’ll feature. Here is an excerpt:

Hey BicaTeam, warning: this is about to get RIDICULOUS.

Why Ethiopia?

  • “Birthplace of coffee”: Arabica coffee beans grows endemically only in the highlands of Ethiopia (perhaps Sudan as well), in East Africa. Robusta coffee beans have grown wild in other parts of Africa.
  • Biodiversity: Ethiopia’s heirloom coffee varieties number between 5K-10K.
  • Unique flavors: Ethiopian coffee possesses a complex array of floral, fruity, and sometimes earthy aromas and flavors.
  • Coffee has been consumed since 1000 AD in Ethiopia, but washed processing only began there in the late 1950’s, and wasn’t widespread until recently.

Where does it come from?

  • Generally, Ethiopian coffee is produced by small farmers belonging to cooperatives and processed at shared mills. The co-ops may or may not belong to larger unions.
  • Ethiopia is divided into large regions, then into zones, then districts (locally, “woredas”), then towns (locally, “kebele”). NOTE: Naming conventions are very confusing and spelling will vary.

Geographical Naming Convention: Ethiopia → Region → Zone → District (“woreda”) → Town (“kebele”)

Production Naming Convention: Co-op Union → Co-op (with a washing station or mill) → Farm

Also of note:

  • “Sidama” is a zone, but “Sidamo” is an outdated (and potentially offensive) term, to refer to the Southern region and people of Ethiopia.
  • “Yirgacheffe” is a woreda and also lends its name to the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Co-op Union (“YCFCU”), which counts 22 co-op members comprised of over 40,000 small farmers, not all necessarily located in the Yirgacheffe woreda; for example, they could be in the Kochere woreda, but also in the YCFCU. Some familiar co-ops in the YCFCU:  Konga; Biloya (Kochere); Worka; Koke; Hama; Chichu; Aramo; Dama; Adado; Haru.
  • Coffees are often loosely referred to as Yirgacheffe or Sidamo, but with our menu, we will need to be more specific. There is also an official naming system from the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange.

The line-up will feature Bica’s All-Star line-up of roasters: Verve (Santa Cruz), Ritual (San Francisco), Four Barrel (San Francisco), Heart (Portland), Coava (Portland), and Intelligentsia (SF / Chicago / LA). Each has helped us find a coffee that displays each roasters unique roasting profile, with an eye towards putting together a broad spectrum of Ethiopians for our customers to enjoy and maybe even geek out on a bit.

Verve “Duromina” (Ethiopia → Oromia → Limmu → Goma → “Duromina” co-op). Growing and tasting notes.

Hear the story of how a co-op is developed and how it can benefit so many growers.

Ritual “Hama” (Ethiopia → SNNP → Gedeo → Kochere → “Hama” co-op). Growing and tasting notes.

Four Barrel “Bulga” (Ethiopia → Oromia → West Arsi → Nensebo → “Bulga” kebele). Four Barrel bought the entire production of this coffee last year, and has been really pleased with their improvements in production. Growing and tasting notes.

Heart “Chelba” (Ethiopia → SNNP → Gedeo → Yirgacheffe → “Chelba” mill). Growing and tasting notes.

Coava “Meaza” (Ethiopia → SNNP → Gedeo → Kochere → Chalalacktu kebele / Kochere co-op). Growing and tasting notes.

Intelligentsia “Yirgacheffe Reko” (Ethiopia → SNNP → Gedeo → Kochere → “Reko” farm). Growing and tasting notes.

Intelligentsia “Sapsucker Blend” (Espresso Blend). Intelligentsia calls this blend their “homage to Ethiopian coffees.” It’s a blend of two Ethiopians and a Guatemalan. One Ethiopia is from the “Homecho Waeno” co-op, which is located in the Aleta Wondo district of the Sidama zone. This is a legit Sidama (we’ve pulled it as an SOE in the past)! The other Ethiopia is from a tiny private farm called “Kebana Forest Farm” which is located in the Limu Kossa woreda of the Jimma zone in Western Oromia. The Guatemala is from Finca La Soledad in Antigua.

We hope to see you at Bica over the weekend and next week. Please introduce yourself to one of our three new-ish BicaTeam members: Claire, Chris, and Hanna have all assimilated into the team very quickly. Please challenge them on their opinions and knowledge of this one-of-a-kind menu.

Please let us know what your favorite is!

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