Higher Grounds Trading Company // Revel Holiday Blend
Ethiopia Sidama SFCFU (60%)
Today’s coffee was grown and harvested by smallholder farmers who belong to the Abela Galuko Cooperative, which falls under the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU).
Located in the Sidama region of southern Ethiopia, SCFCU began representing small-scale farmers in 2001 and has since grown to become the second largest coffee producing cooperative union in Ethiopia. The majority of its member coops are organic and Fair Trade certified and nearly all their coffee is grown in the shade of diverse, indigenous trees. Approximately 5,000 tons of sidamo coffee is produced per year, 95% of which is washed.
Harvest time occurs between September to December depending on the coffee’s altitude and rainfall. After the families harvest the cherries, they sell them to the primary cooperatives for wet processing. There are approximately 220 wet processing centers, 92 of which are owned by members of the coops. The dried parchment is sthen stored in a warehouse until delivery to the central market in Addis Ababa where the husk is removed and the clean beans are packaged for export.
Cooperative Coffees began importing unwashed Sidama coffee directly from Sidama Union in 2009.
Sumatran Permata Gayo (40%)
Permata Gayo was founded in 2006 in the Bener Meriah district of the Aceh Province in Sumatra, Indonesia. Cooperative Coffees began importing coffee from Permata in 2009. The characteristics of the coffee include a rich, leathery, and earthy body with a hint of dark caramel.
After picking the cherries from the trees, the farmer members of Permata Gayo sell the cherries to intermediaries, called “collectors.” These men, who are also farmers themselves, occupy a chief-like position in the local farming community and become the de facto “collectors” – though they and the coop claim it is an “elected” position. The collectors de-pulp, ferment, wash, and dry the parchment down to 40% moisture-content. The parchment is then brought to private hulling centers where it is dried to 18% moisture-content (asalan coffee) after which it is sold to the coop from the collector, at a mark-up that he benefits from. Permata Gayo stores the asalan coffee in a rented warehouse until it is loaded onto a truck and shipped to the dry processing plant (the final step before exportation) in Medan. Unfortunately, this system of collection not only adds cost to the coop; it also prevents the farmers from establishing a better, more direct connection with the coop to which they belong since they never actually come into contact with anyone directly linked to the coop.
Delegates and collectors represent the farmers at the general assembly and coop meetings. They are responsible for electing the Board of Directors who then employs the staff. Technically, the farmers within each village are supposed to elect the delegates and collectors for their respective village. In many cases, particularly for the election of the delegates, this model works successfully. However, the election of the collectors is less clear and more often than not, the same collectors are “elected” year after year. For farmers to feel more connected to their coop, the system needs to be improved. Armia, the manager of Permata Gayo spends half of his time living in the region of Bener Meriah (the other half working on export logistics in Medan, 12 hours away) and hopefully, the coop will take measures to increase its visibility in and connection to the community over the next couple years.
Permata Gayo occupies a brand new office in Bener Meriah fully renovated and expended with a new lab fully equipped in 2010. The asalan that they purchase from the collectors is stored in a warehouse that they rent from Mandago, the private exporting company who they used to contract for exporting their coffee. Mandago only uses the large and modern facility to rent it to Permata.
In Medan, they dry process the parchment in a rented facility called BROMO. The cooperative rents this facility and its own staff work on site to process the coffee until is ready for export.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Revel Holiday Blend, from Higher Grounds Trading Company in Traverse City, Michigan. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Sidama, Ethiopia // Bener Meriah, Sumatra
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Abela Galuko Cooperative // Gayo Organic Coffee Farmers Association
elevation: 1800 // 1250 – 1600 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom // Mandheling Typica, Bourbon, Catimor, Timon
process: natural // wet hulled, patio dried
certifications: Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance
method: Hario V60
grind: 17, Preciso
coffee: 32 g
water: 500 mL
pour: 2:00 concentric pulse pour, 1:00 drop
The aroma of the Revel Holiday Blend is really interesting, kicking off with a complex mixture of cherry apple and plum tomato up front, and those scents introduce a deeper aroma of brown sugar, cedar, and tart citrus.
Hmm, this is a really interesting and complex coffee up front. As I’m taking my first few sips immediately post-brew, I’m struck by how each sip of the coffee seems to come in waves. There is an initial sweetness, followed by roast, followed by a bright liveliness, followed by a spicy and earthy astringency. The coffee is at once sweet and creamy with flavors of caramel and milk chocolate, then abrasive with a slight roastiness and copper flavor, then brightly juicy with incredible flavors of cherry and citrus, then it finishes with a menagerie of deep earth, nut, and cedar tones. Very unusual.
As the cup cools off, the roastiness seems to elevate a bit, becoming more prevalent and up front. Having said that, though, it does have a nice citrus acidity that continually propels the coffee forward throughout, lifting in the finish to reveal an aftertaste of cedar and roasted nuts.
Full body; creamy mouthfeel; citrus acidity; slightly dry finish.
The Revel Holiday Blend, from Higher Grounds Trading Company, was a bit of an odd duck. Each sip tasted like I was drinking two coffees at the same time—kind of like a black and tan; with every sip, I tasted one coffee then I tasted the other. For every rush of sweet sugar browning and bright fruit flavor there was its roasty, full-bodied, musty, earthy counterpart. Despite the 60/40 division,each component in this blend was equal in profile and equal in distribution.
And I think I might have the answer as to why that was—based on the appearance of the beans, it appears as though the blend was created post-roast using two different roast profiles: to me it looks like City+ and Vienna. Creating post-roast blends is pretty common, but I don’t think it worked in this case. Rather than a blend out of two beans that complement one another, this is a blend of two beans that were divergent and stood in contrast to one another.
So I walk away from it with a mixed reaction; half of it is fantastic, half of it is not.
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