Ethiopia Bensa Bombe Kenya-Washed
This coffee comes directly from Catalyst Trade's curious spirit and willingness to take risks to drive coffee forward. More often than not, experimental coffees are contrived from a desire to create a flavor profile, whereas, in the past, the innovation of processing was about using the resources you have responsibly. This processing method came about after a past Onyx employee asked if they had ever tried fermenting de-pulped coffee dry in the tank, instead of underwater. That technique is done most often in Kenya. Michael, from Catalyst, remembered this question. During the following harvest at the Bombe site, he depulped a tank of coffee and fermented it without water. The tank was stirred "normally" a few times throughout the 72-hour fermentation. After the primary de-mucilagation, the coffee ran through washing channels to remove the last remnants of sticky fruit clinging to the seed. By Michael's estimate, he saved nearly 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per fill, which conservatively could be estimated a whopping 24,000 gallons total. The results are a coffee that is bright, sweet, and dynamic. During a short conversation about this coffee, I remarked that this coffee seemed to be remarkably shelf-stable, which may be a result of processing. Needless to say, we are looking into this process for the next harvest season.
BOMBE RELATIONSHIP by Catalyst Trade
The producers of Bombe live high in the lush and lovely Bombe mountain valley. They are part of a member organization consisting of 667 producers in various parts of the mountain range, which also include producers from Bombe and Shantawene. We’ve worked with this group since before it was officially founded (more on that below). The last two years, these producers chose to process their coffees through the Bombe Washing Station to our specifications. Like the other coffees from this site, the Bombe coffees are always stand outs on our cupping tables. It is dense coffee, with heavy concentrations of the smaller screen sizes (the majority of the coffee screen sizes at 14 and 15), just a touch larger than the average screen sizes found in the Shantawene and Keramo lots, which also reflects a slightly larger concentration of the Mikicho variety than the other coffees have. Mikicho is easily identified by its larger cherries with wavy leaves, the seeds appearing elongated and canoe-shaped. No doubt, this is a distant relative to the Gesha variety, and the prominent cup characteristics that stand out in all Bombe lots are lush, tropical fruit tones and delicate florals. Prior to the 2017/18 harvest, this producing group delivered coffee cherries to a different washing station nearby, called Shantawene washing station, where we first encountered the coffees and purchased them as mixed lots. Up until the 2017/2018 harvest, all coffees from Bombe, Keramo and Shantawene villages were processed together and sold under the name of Shantawene. We were noticing different cup dynamics from the cherries that came from different areas, and eventually began to isolate coffees by village. This led to the move to Bombe site washing station and getting even more isolation in the lots. For the past couple seasons, all producers we work with from Bombe, Keramo and Shantawene all deliver cherries to the more centralized Bombe site Abore Washing Station.
We have been purchased screen size separations from Catalyst since they began. Since coffee is an organic product, the seeds of the cherries tend to have a pretty wide variance in size (and shape), and a natural part of coffee production is separating coffee into screen sizes. Mills will separate the coffee to a size 15/16 screen for exporting, and others are either sold as a different grade or sold off for consumption outside of the specialty market. It is common practice to separate and market screen sizes as grades, rather than only by size. Alongside Catalyst's other strict quality standards and practices, we see screen separations nearly as separate coffees; these separations will have a wholly different taste profile.
SCREEN SIZE ISOLATION by Catalyst Trade
Though it is very common in other countries, we don't know anyone else in Ethiopia who isolates screen sizes. To do so, we must be very careful, or we will lose an enormous amount of coffee. Zele works with the export warehouse staff to calibrate the flow of coffee and ensure each size is clearly separate. The decision of whether or not to isolate screen sizes is also quite labor-intensive: we hand-screen- sort and then cup each screen size several times to determine the different qualities and characteristics. In general, smaller screen sizes tend to be more floral and herbal, while larger screen sizes tend to be more fruit-heavy and juicy.
PRODUCER PREMIUMS by Catalyst Trade
A benefit of the new legislation in Ethiopia allows us to share profits with producers directly; additionally, our premiums are reinforced by the 2017 CAFE Practices certification of the Bombe/Abore site. As part of the certification, a second payment is given to producers following the final sale and shipment of all coffees.
In partnering with Abore, Catalyst Trade sought to seize the opportunity to participate in this direct payment structure with producers, and we pay additional levels of premiums on all coffees we purchase. We pay a premium for high-quality cherry acquisition and for implementing float tanks; another for implementation of our processing protocols, which include meticulous sorting and specialized experiments; and an additional premium for coffees exceeding an expected minimum cupping score. In addition to these premiums, we pay daily premiums at the dry mill, when we are processing all of our lots. This amounts to tripling the daily wages of laborers while we are working together.
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER – Hario V60
15g Coffee : 250g Water 210°F
~2:30 Drain Time
If you love coffee from East Africa, then you have hit the jackpot. A rare feat, for now, this coffee has the silky texture of a Kenya coffee, but the flavor and florals of an Ethiopian coffee. More citrus than traditional Ethiopians, think pink grapefruit, red fruit, florals, and black tea. We liked the V60 because it highlighted the clarity and florals, while still having a silkier body than we expect from an Ethiopian coffee. If this coffee drains too fast, under-extracts, it tastes like grapefruit and saline. If this coffee drains too long, over-extracts, it takes on a bitter black tea leaf flavor, but overall is only slightly unpleasant.
ESPRESSO – Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 sec to 4 sec - line pressure, from 4 sec till done - 9 bars
19g in : ~46g out @ ~28s
As enjoyable as this coffee was on filter, we enjoyed it perhaps a little more on espresso. The fruit and florals were more prominent, while the texture was smooth and pleasant. This espresso wants to drain long, be aware that you may have to grind coarser than normal. If this shot pulls too quickly, under-extracts, it is tart and very salty. If this shot pulls too long, over-extracts, it is drying and has a pithy bitter finish.
Ethiopia Bensa Bombe Kenya-Washed
This is a Relationship Coffee from our friends at Catalyst Trade. In January of 2019, Jon and I (Dakota) were awake for about 36 hours while flying from Arkansas to Addis Ababa. We grabbed a taxi and went straight to the hotel, where Michael had set up a cupping of all the fresh crop offerings they had. Sleep deprivation aside, we ended up purchasing fifteen 60-kilo bags of this coffee for $5.55/lb. We cupped this at 87 points. They are incredible to work and travel with, each year we look forward to seeing them at various events across the country and in Ethiopia.
• The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $0.93/lb when we purchased this coffee.
• The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as the final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage upfront upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.