A few weeks ago, some friends from Stumptown Coffee Roasters came down to Philly to conduct a tasting session with our staff. Tasting (also known as "cupping") is a something our staff does on the regular to stay knowledgeable about our rotating selection of single origin coffees, and to practice the art of mindful tasting. Cupping is a totally different experience from how we usually drink coffee: while chatting, working, or otherwise being in more engaged in the world around us than in the minutiae of each sip from our mug. It's just you, your spoon, and the coffee. It's a moment to quiet your mind and let your brain and mouth focus without distraction.
One of the stars of that cupping session was the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Chelbessa. Many single origin coffees from East Africa are fruity, floral and bright, but this one just soars. No doubt, it is fruity, with big notes of juicy peach and honeydew, but the sweetness is pleasantly complicated by silky herbal notes of jasmine and bergamot. Bergamot oil, by the way, comes from the inside of a bergamot orange peel, and is one of the main flavors in Earl Grey tea.
It's no surprise that this coffee is so fantastic: Ethiopia (specifically the region of Yirgacheffe) is almost universally recognized as the birthplace of coffee, and is known for producing some of the finest beans on the planet. Coffee grows wild in the forests of the country's south-western highlands, and is of course a huge agricultural crop, representing approximately 45% of the Ethiopia's gross domestic product, and 85% of its employment.
The Gedeo Zone, where this coffee originates, boasts green mountains peaking at almost 7,000 feet above sea level. The latitude and fertile soil are ideal growing conditions. Chelbessa is a family-owned washing station that sits in a basin, encircled by farms above. Over 1,000 farmers contributed to this lot, many of whom grow on tiny plots of land and bring the fruits of their harvest down the mountains on foot or by mule. At the washing station, the heirloom variety coffee cherries undergo a 48 hour fermentation and meticulous washing and grading in channels. The coffee is then fully dried on raised beds.
This is Stumptown's second year working with Chelbessa and the quality, due to careful lot separation and skilled handling of the coffee cherries, is extremely high. Also, this stuff is exclusive: Stumptown is the only roasting outlet for this coffee, so you really can't get Chelbessa just anywhere.
But you can get it at HubBub! We actually had it on our Chemex menu last summer, and decided to bring it back after some of our crew members went to a Stumptown cupping in New York and became enamored all over again with its bright acidity, strawberry sweetness, and true juiciness. It's somewhat rare for a coffee to be sweet and fruity and still retain body and complexity. Chelbessa does just that. It also acts as a really nice counterpoint to some of the earthier, chocolaty single origin coffees on our pour over menu. If a hit of sparkly sweetness is what you crave during these frigid winter days, give Chelbessa a try!