In the relative lull of Summer, between cold brew-tonics and tanning we’ve been fine tuning Hot Numbers...
But now the Sun is back to it’s autumn angle, the nights are long enough for typing up some short(-ish) blog posts. A lot has been happening, so much so October has come as a bit of a surprise. So In the next few weeks I’ll be typing up some thoughts on our new Cold Brew label and the aesthetics of speciality coffee, and divulging some behind the scenes knowledge on a new collaboration we’ve in the works....
But first I thought we’d introduce a new Coffee! We don't do this for every coffee, but some just stand out above the others.
ENTER, ROCKO MOUNTAIN RESERVE *fanfare* *applause*
Just Dialled in for Espresso at the shop, this fresh Ethiopian crop is a big, punchy natural processed coffee. Lots of jammy flavours and thick mouthfeel, some nice tart acidity and some of those floral notes you expect from a washed Ethiopian crop comes through on the nose, especially as a filter brew.
But to understand why we get so excited about Ethiopian coffee, you have to know a little bit about coffee’s rather complex history….
Feel free to skip this next bit.
Somewhere in a forest about 10,000 years ago, Coffea Eugenioides and Coffea Canephora cross-pollinated to produce Coffea Arabica. Which makes it a very recent development when you consider Homo Sapiens, a young species in the eyes of the planet, evolved about 200,000 years ago. Like a lot of early history, we’re working with best-guesses and “fables agreed upon,” but it’s widely accepted that this Forest was in the Highlands of Ethiopia, this was the birthplace of Coffea Arabica.
One legend that has been passed down is the tale of a goat-herder, seeing his flock hepped-up on caffeine decided to try eating these cherries of boundless energy, and found the effect to be pretty ‘magic.’ Then at some point a devout sort proclaimed this to be the work of the devil, obviously, (anything fun is always bad ju-ju) and threw the coffee cherries into the fire. (There’s always a fire in early history stories. No fire is pre-history.) When they all caught the whiff of roasting coffee seeds everyone agreed such a heavenly smell could only be the work of a benevolent God, picked the toasted seeds out of the fire and made themselves a flat white. Using Goat’s milk.
Asides from being a heavy handed example of Man’s fickle nature, it’s a tidy coffee creation myth that you can decorate as you please. (The bit about the goats milk macchiato is not entirely chronological.) The point of the story though is, Ethiopia is where we first started consuming coffee.
But it’s not where we first cultivated it.
The first recorded instance of cultivated coffee comes from Sufi monks in Yemen. Thought be imported from Ethiopia in the 1500s. Probably to keep the monks wired all night for endurance praying, whirling around circles and laying down the foundations for cosmology and metaphysics.
By the time the Dutch got involved, about 120 years later...
... the first steps in the narrowing of the gene pool had happened. A few seeds from Ethiopia became the parents of many many many coffee trees in Yemen, as oppose to a whole land full of wild Arabica for pollination.
So when the Dutch opened a trading post at the port of Mocha, and started introducing this powerful mystical spice to the rest of their colonies they were essentially taking a domesticated genetically modified version of this previously wild plant, which would be the basis for all future coffee plants.
But it gets WORSE.
The Dutch take ONE plant from their colony in Java back to Amsterdam and propagate saplings from this. Then they give ONE of these saplings to the French as a peace time gift. The french then sail this singular plant to Martinique and this plant becomes the parent of all the arabica coffee in central and, later, south America.
This map gives you an idea of the the progression...
Coffee wouldn't get back to Africa for another 300 years, as a genetically narrowed clone plant, and miles away from Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia things still remain a little healthier. Being the native home of Arabica there are plenty of wild coffee plants in their native forests to cross pollinate with and to cultivate varietals from. We refer to these as “Heirloom” varietals. Perhaps genetically closer to the original Typica Arabica, but the gene pool runs deeper.
So when we’re drinking some of these Ethiopian coffees, we’re drinking up natural history. We’re getting some of what the goat herder was chewing on in 570AD. Ethiopia as a growing region represents a spring of potential undiscovered wild varietals, just waiting to blow us away.
Which is all highly interesting and romantic etc. etc. but the real proof comes from the flavour. Ethiopian farms are consistently putting out unique coffee.
A prime example of which is from the Rocko Mountain…
Grown by small holder farms (maximum of around a 1000 trees to a farm, each tree only producing enough for about 10 cups of coffee.
Situated 1950-2150 Metres above Sea level
Naturally processed (fruit of the cherry is left around seed as it dries.)
The ‘fermentation’ that occurs in the natural process brings a bold strawberry flavour to the cup, which gets balanced out by all these exciting floral things happening that are often prominent in wet processed Ethiopian coffee. I could bang on about it, but really, just taste it.
And … asides from being tasty, these bean are charitable!
The GGR foundation is dedicated to protecting young girls and women in Ethiopia by offering sports scholarships to keep them in education. There is a gender disparity rife in parts of Africa which leads to enforced marriages, the normalisation of sex work from a young age general abuse and the perpetuation of poverty. By keeping these young women in education they are better protected and their future prospects greatly improved.
So how much did Rocko Mountain raise?
A grand total of $10,000 !
If that weren't enough, Falcon are also arranging a Sponsored 5K run to further the donations to this worthy cause, which you can get involved with here:
It’s perhaps somewhat reductionist, maybe even patronising, to come from a very privileged background and protest that the coffee we all enjoy comes from areas which are ‘troubled.’ By ‘trouble’ I mean either civil war, drug wars or oppressive inequality and broken infrastructure, these lingering ghosts of our ancestor’s imperialism. But it’s far worse to ignore it. We should, those of us drinking and enjoying coffee, inherit some of the blame and take responsibility for it's oppressive history. Which is partly what Specialty coffee is about- through more ethical trading structures and initiatives which aim to repair and support the communities that surround coffee farming.
So whenever we can celebrate a direct success like Falcon and the GGRF, we like to take it and shout about it!
Because not only is this coffee tasty, it helps ease your middle class guilt.
Works great as filter coffee. Holds it own with milk in a flat white, and if you want a real taste bud tickler come get a straight espresso of it. It’ll melt your running shoes right off. Or, if you prefer to be in control of your coffee ritual then you can buy a bag and have it delivered to your door. Just follow the link to the buy page ...
(In the next few days we’ll be emailing out some suggested brew recipes to anyone subscribed to the newsletter or anyone that's purchased a bag through the website and didnt use a fake email address. )
For further reading: Here's an informative and compelling piece from Sudan on similar issues to which the Ethiopian GGRF aims to combat: Educating girls in South Sudan
Fancy some vintage Ethiopia jazz funk whilst you’re brewing up a cup? get your kettle out and turn the volume up for Hailu Mergia:
Opinions and historical inaccuracy. @Sjlillustration