In the last few years, something transformational started to happen in the way our coffees from Ethiopia were prepared, sourced & classified. It all began when we came across a coffee from the Dume...
In the last few years, something transformational started to happen in the way our coffees from Ethiopia were prepared, sourced & classified. It all began when we came across a coffee from the Dumerso washing station, in Yirgacheffe, which totally blew us away. It was late in the season & we only had one sack of Washed and one of Natural and the latter was so sensationally fruity it stopped us in our tracks.
For years we have traditionally only been offered washed coffees from this region. Beautifully soft, sweetly fragrant coffees that were an established favourite with generations of Atkinsons customers. Now all of a sudden we had a new, but authentically old, kid on the block – a dynamic, spiky, juicy punk of a bean that was going back to basics to overthrow the established order. On the old Atkinsons lists, the coffees we sourced from the west of the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia, centred around the region of Djimmah, were always Natural and the coffees from the East, from the Yirgacheffe region, were washed. So, I was always curious to know what the Yirgacheffe coffees tasted like before the washing stations were built.
Eager to find out more, I went there myself to see what else I could find. This was nothing short of a personal quest to find the Holy Grail of Ethiopian Coffee! I visited numerous exporters, traders, farms and washing stations. I met dozens of wonderfully memorable people from all walks of life at the beginning of the coffee supply chain. I cupped hundreds of coffees. We tasted an array of fabulous new coffee experiences but there was one that really stood out as a prime example of this exciting new sensation, to me, of a Naturally Processed Yirgacheffe.
We called it Shalaitu, named after the glittering stream that runs through the washing station. The Exporter wanted to call it Rocko Mountain, a name that became popular with other roasters but we decided to stick with the original, indigenous name: Shalaitu
I even remember the first moment I encountered it. It was at the corner of one particular cupping table and I knew the moment I caught something delicately fragrant yet insistently and generously fruity in the aroma emanating from the grounds in the cupping bowl that this was going to be something special.
Some Naturals are almost synthetically sour like Juicy Fruit chewing gum but this was a delicious iron fist of intense juice in a velvet glove of sheer soft-fruit sweetness. This was what I had been searching for. This was the apotheosis of a Yirgacheffe Natural, the peak of perfection.