STORY

This is our third year working with Catalyst, as well as buying from the Abore site. Each harvest of coffee has been marked by a perfume-like fragrance that is immediately apparent upon grinding. The aromatics, combined with the sweetness of the coffees, as well as the staggering amount of transparency they provide in regards to what it truly takes to import coffee, makes this coffee from Catalyst Trade one of our favorite releases of the year. Emily and Michael McIntyre...

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Ethiopia Shantawene Anaerobic Natural

Some coffees go beyond comfort or excitement and instead form a symphony. This is one of the most perfect coffees we have encountered. Extremely floral, sweet, and complex, this Heirloom coffee from Ethiopia is anaerobic fermented and reaches such heights of flavor complexity that we honestly were shocked. Rarely do we find a coffee we are excited about at origin only to find it arriving three months later even better than we originally thought. This coffee extracts easily enough for the coffee professional to the first-timer. Enjoy my friends.

Origin: Ethiopia

Region: Sidama

Washing Station: Shantawene

Process: Natural & Raised-bed Dried

Elevation: 2100 meters

Variety: Mikicho, Setami, Heirloom

Cup: Rose, Pineapple Nectar, Honey, Bright Cherry

Size:

$ 23
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STORY

This is our third year working with Catalyst, as well as buying from the Abore site. Each harvest of coffee has been marked by a perfume-like fragrance that is immediately apparent upon grinding. The aromatics, combined with the sweetness of the coffees, as well as the staggering amount of transparency they provide in regards to what it truly takes to import coffee, makes this coffee from Catalyst Trade one of our favorite releases of the year. Emily and Michael McIntyre, as well as their partner Zele, are three people who are incredibly passionate and dedicated to these coffees. And year after year this dedication shows. Last year, producers from the Bensa area delivered their best cherries to the Bombe site, where they are then separated and processed. This dedication to producing amazing coffee has led Catalyst to source the entire production (2.5 million kgs of cherries) from the Bombe site. They are extremely involved in the processing and production of these lots.

When we asked Catalyst why they had decided to do this second-day fermented natural Shantawene lot, Emily McIntyre responded, “Because we wanted to try it!” We dug in a bit more via phone call with Michael McIntyre on the details of how this coffee was processed. This is what Michael had to say -

“It goes through a similar process as the other naturals. Really, it begins with the selection process [of cherries]. We pay premiums for ripe cherries, and once they are delivered, they are hand sorted. Then, they are floated for separation, submerged in clean water, and the low-density cherries are separated off. We do this twice to make sure all the high-density cherries remain. They are then drained of the loose water from floating. We then place them in Grain-Pro bags for 48 hours, in a shaded storeroom. Really, this is semi-anaerobic because there’s a bit of air between the cherries. From there, they go to the drying tables that are shaded by the same black mesh the tables are made of.”

After Michael shared these details with us, we spoke further about an experiment I (Dakota) was a part of a few harvests ago in Guatemala, where we processed coffee in a similar way. It turns out that experiment a few years ago in Guatemala was the inspiration for the way this coffee was processed. Michael heard about it and decided to try it, years later and on the other side of the globe.

 

SIDAMA ZONE by Emily McIntyre (Catalyst Coffee Consulting):

One of the most-visited cities in Ethiopia is Awassa (or Hawassa), the capital of the SSNPR Region and a well-kept town full of resorts, restaurants, and lakeside celebrations. There are even a few stoplights! On the shores of Lake Awassa (one of the Great Rift Valley lakes), the town has blossomed and is one of our personal favorites in the world.

Sidama is much larger than Awassa, however, no matter how fun it is to watch hippos surface among the rushes. Driving a full day over increasingly rough roads to the town of Daye, through the well-known towns of Yirgalem and Aleta Wondo, you find yourself in a rugged and lovely countryside surrounded, and sometimes chased, by the smiling faces of the Sidama people.

Historically, they had many unique cultural attributes, including a voluntary farm-sharing program and a butter-sharing program (the only legal item women could own was butter, so they would trade, share, and compound butter to aid women in need). Subjugation by the Abyssinian rule of Menelik II in 1898 was succeeded by the Communist regime in the early 1980's, and then eventually overthrown for the current leadership. Now, they continue to advocate for their rights as a unique culture to be observed (Note: calling the people group "Sidamo" is a derogatory practice begun by the invading troops of Menelik, hence our use of the term "Sidama")

Like many other areas of Ethiopia, subsistence farming is a way of life for the Sidama people, and in fact, their beautiful farms are notable for having more division between them (handmade fences of bamboo screens and other materials) and more evidence of year-round cultivation. Enset, or false banana (called "Weese" in Sidama) is the main food crop and it is used in many applications, from water storage in case of drought, to feeding animals, to serving as mats to support food preparation. Other products grown in Sidama include: wheat, oats, sugar cane, potatoes, and other vegetables. Every household plants food crops with trees, to the benefit of both--that is, until eucalyptus began to be planted in the area and spread its poisonous influence. The short-term economic potential of the eucalyptus threatens the long-term forestation and ecology of the area.

Livestock is also a significant mover in the economy, though that began to shift with a massive population explosion limiting pastureland and the "tse-tse" fly epidemic of the early 20th century. Goats and oxen are still seen everywhere, dotting the rolling hills and lazily being herded across the roads which, though paved in places, still have a haphazard air as if nobody really knows why they exist.

The Sidama people comprise roughly 20% of the overall population of Ethiopia and thus have many administrative needs, which continue to be addressed. Coffee as a primary economic driver remains life-and-death important to the Sidama people, and to those of us who love the area and wish to continue supporting it, and them.

 

NATURAL PROCESSED COFFEES

In the case of natural processed coffee, the coffee cherries are brought in the mill and most often take to raised drying beds immediately. The cherries are allowed to absorb sunlight directly to dry out the mucilage. During the process, under ripe, overripe, and damaged cherries are removed by the mill workers.

The cherries are raked regularly to discourage fermentation and mold formation. Just like in washed coffees, the drying cherries are covered during rainfall and nighttime. The cherries are removed from the drying beds once the moisture content reaches 12% and from there they are transferred to a hulling station to remove the dried mucilage.

 

SUGGESTED USE

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 – Kalita Wave Dripper
20g Coffee : 300g Water 205°F
~3:30 Drain Time

- 50g bloom for 30s
- Pour to 120g
- 60g pulse pours as water level reaches coffee bed
~3:30 Drain Time

When we cupped this coffee we actually scored it higher than many of the Geshas or other rare varieties we have released. A truly special coffee, you will notice its bright and sweet lychee, and long lasting floral character. We liked our standard Kalita recipe as well as this 4:6 variation for this coffee to bring out the sweetness and brightness while provided a juicy tactile experience. This is one of those coffees to impress your friends, customers, or even strangers with its intense aroma and flavors. If this coffee drains too fast, under-extracts, it tastes tart and salty with a lacking sweetness. If this coffee drains too long, over-extracts, it tastes mildly sweet and bright, with a long and drying aftertaste.


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 : ~45g out @ ~26s

This coffee presents us a sweet and floral espresso. The most floral coffee we have ever experienced! Sweet and smooth with a super floral aroma, we love love love this coffee. It actually pulls a little faster than our usual profile for Ethiopian coffees, but tastes fantastic. Look for balance when dialing it in. When the coffee pulls too quickly, under-extracts, it is tart and salty while still pretty floral. When the coffee pulls too slowly, over-extracts, it is watery and drying, while lacking the sweetness of the balanced cup.

 

TRANSPARENCY

Ethiopia Shantawene Anaerobic Natural

This is a Relationship Coffee from our friends at Catalyst Trade. In January of this year, 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 $4.90/lb. We cupped this at a lofty 90 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. 

Jon

 

Relationship Coffee

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.

 

GOALS

  • 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.

 

Pairs Well With