Cantaloupe, Lychee and Gooseberry
Now for the third year, we are excited to share this progressive release from our partners at Moplaco in Ethiopia. Led by Heleanna Georgalis, they have been quick to take advantage of changes to the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange regulations to export both delicious traditional Ethiopian lots, and small experiments such as this one. The quality of raw material in Ethiopia is unlike most other producing countries; the biodiversity of both the coffee trees themselves and the environment in which they are grown leads to well nourished and hardy trees, without the need for external inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers. This leads to incredibly high potential for cup quality, but until recently some interesting work by producers has been masked by a lack of traceability and experimentation. After the opening of export regulations in 2017, Moplaco began experimenting with Carbonic Maceration processing at their Logita mill in the Sidamo region. In the beginning of this project they were assisted by a group of experts in coffee fermentation, our Brazilian partners at Daterra. Some of the Daterra team actually flew to Ethiopia to consult on the project, and it was through our connection with them that we were able to taste some small samples from the initial experiments. During our extensive trip to Ethiopia in January we visited many of Moplaco’s farms and processing facilities, and we now feel we understand them and their way of working better than ever. After seeing the beautiful Logita mill and farm, we are more excited than ever to share this year’s lot.
In order to create this lot, the very ripest cherries, on the edge of overripe, are selected before being sealed in stainless steel tanks and fermented in an anaerobic environment for 60 hours. This long fermentation causes the cherries to turn a dark purple colour, before they are dried with the cherry still attached for around 12 days. This has allowed a wild and juicy interpretation of Ethiopian terroir to develop. The fact that this terroir driven character is still able to be appreciated is testament to the expert processing carried out by Moplaco. Logita carries a wild take on the heavy Sidamo profile, driven by tropical fruit, with creamy lychee and crisp boysenberry.
Moplaco were founded in 1972, by Yannis Georgalis. They established themselves in the town of Dire Dawa, to the north east of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Crucially, Dire Dawa is located on the edge of the iconic Ethiopian region of Harrar, and is home to the region’s largest ECX coffee delivery centre. Harrar produces a markedly different expression of Ethiopian coffee, when compared to the regions further south, surrounding the Great Rift Valley. The climate in Harrar is much drier, resulting in very different types of vegetation dominating the landscape here, those that thrive in these drier climates, such as evergreen and coniferous species. These species are much shorter in stature, resulting in much less shade for the coffee. The coffee here is also grown in a very different mode, known as Garden Coffee. In this system, coffee trees are normally planted in small numbers, often in conjunction with other crops, close to a farmers home. The trees here are afforded almost no shade, and can often be grown purely for home use. However, in Harrar, this is a popular method to grow coffee for export. Coffee in Harrar is almost always naturally processed, and along with the dry and hot climate and the lack of shade, this means that coffee here is often much heavier and richer than we are used to, a profile that has fallen out of the modern specialty coffee expectation. Harrar has also seen a decline in production, as many farmers elect to begin growing the popular narcotic Khat at the expense of coffee. It is for these reasons that the company chose to expand into wider Ethiopian specialty coffee, while keeping their roots in Harrar. This increased in pace when Yannis’ daughter Heleanna took over Moplaco 8 years ago, leading the company’s expansion into other areas of Ethiopia. The company invested in a large state of the art facility in Addis Ababa, to mill coffees from all over Ethiopia, and directly export while maintaining traceability. There are also processing stations in Yirgacheffe and Chelelectu, where experimental processing is carried out, and agronomy advice is given to the smallholder farmers delivering cherry. Most recently, Moplaco purchased the Logita processing station in the town of Bensa, in the North-East of the famous Sidamo region. From here Moplaco have been providing both agricultural and processing advice to neighbouring mills, while also buying and exporting their highest quality coffees, in a project they have dubbed Neighbours and Crops. We are proud to be involved with Heleanna’s work, an inspirational woman blazing a trail for a new level of speciality coffee in Ethiopia.
When we choose to share a coffee, it’s because we feel it showcases clear character in the cup, the origin of which can be traced back through the coffee chain. We are inspired not only by sharing this carefully created raw material, but by conveying how each step of the coffee’s journey has led to what you find in your cup, be it terroir, varietal, post-harvest processing, or something else entirely.
We roast with a gentle touch in order to unveil these characteristics with the highest level of clarity. Be it a dense, high-grown heirloom varietal from Ethiopia, or a lower-grown Bourbon from Brazil, we always aim for this same clarity, and write taste notes as an introduction as to what to expect from the raw material. We would expect higher acidity and a lower body from Ethiopia, so would use notes such as citrus fruits and tea to describe this. From Brazil, we are more likely to use notes such as chocolate and nuts; to convey the heavy, sweet character and pleasant dryness we expect from lower-grown coffees.
The Carbonic Maceration process has been used in the wine industry for several decades, particularly in the Beaujolais region, producing fruit-driven, juicy structured wines in a very controlled manner. The application of this process in coffee is only a few years old, but has the same goals. Carbonic maceration is a complex process, requiring precise measurement and control of fermentation variables. Cherries are sealed in tanks without access to oxygen for an extended period with constant monitoring and cataloging of PH, temperature, and CO2 levels. Ambient temperatures are also monitored and controlled to ensure linearity in the processing. After the required time inside the tanks, or when the required pH is reached, coffee is then removed and dried, most often on raised beds or in mechanical driers.