Ethiopia Sidama Bensa 'Della' Natural Grade 1
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Sidamo stands out as the first gateway we enter to the coffee dreamland of Ethiopia. Before the administrative regrouping of the old Ethiopian provinces along ethnolinguistic lines, Sidamo encompasses today's Guji and Yirgacheffe regions. In a way, all the beautiful coffees in our collective memories come from Sidamo. In June 2020, the region officially adopted the new name of Sidama, which is named after the eponymous indigenous tribe.
The all-weather road that leads from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya to its south, is a major regional trade route for coffee as well as other goods. Names of famous coffee stations line this route, e.g. Yirgacheffe and Chelelektu on the road. To the north of Yirgcaheffe, Sidama region straddles on both sides of this road, with Bensa woreda (district) to its far east gaining attention for its coffee quality from 2010s onwards. Within Bensa, we have on our list the local washing station of Shanteweni and the highlands of Kokose, both exhibiting the classic notes of blueberry and flowers in our roast. 'Della' is the name of the micro lot which was harvested and processed separately from other coffees on producer Elto Coffee's farm. Growing at an elevation of 1,900 to 2,000m, the coffee grows alongside wassa and false banana.
Sidama enjoys the usual deep volcanic soils and the cultivation method remains traditional without the excess of modern fertilizers and pesticides, making it a conventional organic coffee. A naturally processed coffee, it dries in 3-5cm thick layers on African raised beds at 1.2m above ground on a net, stirring and turning the cherries every 20-30 min to allow even drying. Moisture is checked after 14 days and coffee is dried to export requirement.
In 1970s, Coffee Berry Disease (CBD) destroyed a lot of coffee cultivation in Ethiopia. In 1974, the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC) successfully developed CBD resistant varieties from pure line selections of the heirloom varieties. To remember this year, the varieties are given serial numbers starting with '74'. 'Della' comprises of varieties 74112 and 74158.
Sidama is best enjoyed for its good body and berry notes. Washed Sidama is preferred to highlight the characteristic fruitiness. Our coffee is done in the natural process, where the cherries dry under direct sunlight for 2 to 3 weeks. This allows us to showcase the good body that accompanies the natural process against the backdrop of its fruitiness.
We have chosen to roast this coffee medium light towards light to bring forward the intense strawberry note, but long enough to reduce the acidity in its aftertaste such that it is an accommodating coffee from start to end.
On the Timemore Crystal Eye using Cafec TH-1 paper at grind size 750 µm, we brew a coffee that starts with a clear strawberry flavour, permeating the air even as we brew and ends with some wild flowers, molasse and warm spices, on a medium-light body and soft but vibrant acidity. As of all Ethiopia, it comes with some lemony notes which are more pronounced when hot than when cold. At the end of the drink, we smelled the empty cup and we detected pastry-like notes of butterscotch or perhaps salted caramels. We aim to bring forth a cup that is balanced from start to end, without disturbing acidity as it cools and with an extended afterflavour, without a flavor crush immediately upon swallowing. A very clean coffee that is sun-dried, its flavour clarity is best enjoyed when hot to warm. It is indeed a complex coffee that is enjoyable and easy to drink, just like all Ethiopia coffees. Our brew recipe is as follows, with a bloom and one continuous pour:
14g for 220ml
0-15 sec: Pour 45g water
45-75 sec: Add 170g