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Ethiopia Sidamo

March 5, 2008

This will be a combined review, both of us having received samples. For a description of Bob and Jim's evaluation procedure, see our reference page.

Sidamo is a large growing region in souther Ethiopia producing dry and wet processed coffees from a wide range of altitudes and with a wide range of sort quality. The government ranks quality from Grade 1 (highest) to Grade 5 (lowest) based on screen size and bean appearance. This is a rather misleading criterion for Ethiopian coffee, since the much higher genetic variability of their coffees makes even fully ripened beans have non-uniform colors, shapes and sizes. Moreover, since the government levies an export duty on Grade 1 and 2 coffees , most of the beans exported are rated Grade 5. This means that Sidamos, Harars and Lekemptis don't look like specialty coffee; but these ugly beans can brew some of the finest coffees in the world. This coffee is a Grade 4.

In the past, very few subregions were given separate trade designations. Yrgacheffe, the highest town in the Sidamo region was one of these, and is the source of more carefully prepped and sorted coffee. The gathering recognition of Sidamo as one of the world's great coffee growing areas is changing this; in the last years we have reviewed quite a few premium Sidamos bearing the local names of other high lying towns and farming regions.

Will this gathering recognition of other high lying subregions lower the quality of the generic grade 4 and 5 dry processed Sidamo, a coffee loved by espresso blenders and aficionados all over the world?

Jim's Review:
If the quality of generic Sidamos is on the decline, it is hard to tell from cupping this one. This is a classic Sidamo with lots of apricot and honey on top, and caramel and browned butter underneath. Like almost all dry process Sidamos, there is also a hint of ferment. It is so slight, that it only shows up in the hot aroma and taste, and disappears on cooling. However, it is edgy rather than wild or complex, and doesn't add to the flavor. This keeps the cupping score below 90.

This Sidamo is exceptionally heavy bodied and quite sweet. So it makes a very balanced espresso, with the caramel coming through in milk drinks. For my taste, the shots are somewhat low toned and a dash of wet processed Yrg could give it some pop.

Bob's Review:
This is a lime/apricot/coconut Sidamo with a toasty, chocolate underpinning and good acidity to balance the ample sweetness. There is a hint of cereal in the profile, something like Cheerios - just a hint, and I believe that this may come from a higher-than-normal number of quakers (immature beans) in the mix. There are also faint notes of fermentation, quite typical of natural-processed coffees. But these slight features of the flavor profile do not detract from the overall quality in any meaningful way and, in fact, may even enhance and add complexity.

I was surprised by the cappuccino. It was excellent; clean with a a milk chocolate finish taking the place of the strong citrus of the non-milk, straight espresso shot.

As a brewed drink, this coffee is a well balanced, richly-bodied coffee with a relatively long finish and good acidity.


Bobs Score
Dry Fragrance: 4.3
Wet Aroma: 4.1
Flavor: 7.6
Finish: 7.7
Acidity: 7.3
Body: 7.8
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 88.8

Jim's Score

Dry fragrance: 4.0
Wet Aroma: 3.5
Flavor: 7.5
Finish: 8.25
Acidity: 7.0
Body: 8.5
TOTAL (subtotal + 50): 88.75

  • Lighter Roasts: Honey and apricot, touch of edgy ferment.
  • Darker Roasts: Carmel and browned butter flavors become more prominent.
  • As Espresso: Balanced shot and good in milk. Roast to no lighter than the first pops of second crack.


UPDATED: March 5, 2008