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An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
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DonSt
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Posted Mon Oct 27, 2008, 8:05pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

MarkPrince Said:

Looking forward to seeing some of you this Sunday - details are here: http://www.coffeegeek.com/podcasts/ritual.pdf

Mark

Posted October 24, 2008 link

Mark,
 Will there be a review of the CoffeeGeek Discovery Series that was held last Sunday?  I'm interested in trends (if any) between Pacific Northwest and California Roasters. Thanks.

-Don
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Luca
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Posted Mon Oct 27, 2008, 8:52pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

GaryH Said:

I had this very nice French Press Koratie coffee at Four Barrel. I found out later that this is a Sidamo! They didn't put the Sidamo name on the bag so I didn't know it was a Sidamo. All I know is that this Sidamo was roasted by Stumptown in Portland. I have no idea what sets this Sidamo apart from the others I've tried. So that's confusing. I go to various coffee houses and I see all these Sidamos. I have Sidamos coming out of the wazoo. So to me this article is about just another three Sidamos. It becomes meaningless after a while.

I also would like to know how Sidamos are different from other Ethiopian coffees like Harrar, Misty Valley, Yirg (others)?.

Posted October 25, 2008 link

Verve in Santa Cruz has a Sidamo. Looks like everyone has a Sidamo. I buy it because Verve is good and I recognize the Sidamo name. How many Sidamos are there and how can I know which ones are the really good ones? It's easy to know what is a great coffee when it comes to COE coffees because these have been scored by judges. When I buy a top scoring COE, like a COE #1, or even a COE #10, I can taste it's quality coffee. But how can I tell which roaster has the better Sidamo?

I'm not 100% clear on it, but I gather that most of the common terms used to refer to Ethiopian coffees are geographical names.  They might be provinces, states, cities ... not too sure.  This is further complicated by adding names of exporters, cooperatives, etc (eg. MAO, Oromia Coop).  Finally, coffees are also graded.  I'm not too sure that the grades are reliable - I have heard of roasters paying more for coffee of a certain grade than they though it was worse and, conversely, of exceptional coffee being graded poorly so that lower tariffs were payable on it.

Harrar coffee is usually natural/dry processed, whereas Sidamo and Yirgacheffe is usually wet processed.  Naturally, there are exceptions.  Ethiopia also has an incredible number of coffee varietals, which may be different in different regions.  For example, the famous Harrar varietal is called a longberry.  

As a consumer, you have a choice of buying roasted coffee locally or buying coffee from further away and having it shipped to you.  The same is true for coffee roasters buying green beans.  They may buy from a local broker, they may buy from a broker on the other side of the country.  Some will buy from brokers overseas and some will buy direct from farms or cooperatives.  It is common for many roasters to buy and offer the same coffee from the same brokers.  

It is also common for roasters to label the coffee simply eg. 'ethiopian sidamo' or 'kenyan AA.'  This gives you no useful information.  However, you are not guaranteed quality just because a roaster sells their single origin under a long name - eg. 'ABC cooperative X varietal ethiopian wet processed sidamo', nor will coffee sold under a generic name necessarily be worse than coffee sold under a specific name.  The name that roasters sell their coffee under is a marketing decision for them to make and I do think that some roasters sell coffee under longer names to make it sound more exotic.

As with any other coffee, any roaster will tell you that all of their coffee is excellent.  For example, if you ask them 'is this coffee good in milk,' most will say yes.  If you then ask them if it is also good in espresso, they will say yes.  If you ask them if it is good as a filter coffee, most will say yes.  99% of the time, this simply isn't true.  But you have to have some sympathy for roasters - absolute honesty places them at a competitive disadvantage!  I find that the better approach is to tell your roaster what you want to use your coffee for and to ask for their recommendation, rather than asking questions about specific coffees that they have.  You can also get good information by asking how their coffee X compares with their coffee Y.

In Australia, at least, Ethiopian coffee runs the gamut from basically defective and unacceptable to utterly excellent.  This is the same for any coffee, but, unfortunately, I feel that the spread for ethiopian coffee is greater.  I have thrown away so much Harrar that I tend not to buy it unless I have tasted it or unless it is recommended by a trusted roaster or acquaintance.

In the USA, you are fortunate to have coffeereview.com and coffeecuppers.com, as well as thriving forums in which people can post their recommendations.  From what I can tell, you also have fantastic buying power and, as a result, have access to much more of the very very top Ethiopian coffees than we do.

Cheers,

Luca

 
General ramblings about coffee: http://www.pourquality.blogspot.com/

Reviews of Australian coffee: http://www.coffeereviewaustralia.com/
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GaryH
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Posted Mon Nov 3, 2008, 6:48pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

Thanks Luca for giving such a detailed explanation. I really appreciate it.


Luca Said:

Harrar coffee is usually natural/dry processed, whereas Sidamo and Yirgacheffe is usually wet processed.  Naturally, there are exceptions.  Ethiopia also has an incredible number of coffee varietals, which may be different in different regions.  For example, the famous Harrar varietal is called a longberry.  

Luca

Posted October 27, 2008 link

Just wondering. Is it possible for a Sidamo to taste like a Yirgacheffe or a Harrar, and vice versa!
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SL28ave
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Posted Mon Nov 3, 2008, 7:18pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

GaryH Said:

Just wondering. Is it possible for a Sidamo to taste like a Yirgacheffe or a Harrar, and vice versa!

Posted November 3, 2008 link

In my mind, Yirgacheffe is an area in Northwestern Sidamo, so they are often similar.

I've never heard of a Harrar tasting like a good washed Yirgacheffe or Sidamo.
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GaryH
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Posted Fri Nov 14, 2008, 3:36pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

This week I got to explore yet another Ethiopian Sidamo from a local roaster Barefoot (I live only 4 miles from them). I pulled some double ristrettos using a range of brew water temperatures but the shots came out too acidic with limited flavor. I tried French Press which also was too acidic for my taste.

GaryH: Barefoot_Sidamo1.jpg
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GaryH
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Posted Fri Nov 14, 2008, 3:37pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

Then I used the Barefoot natural processed Sidamo to make coffee on the Chemex which turned out very nice with lots of complexity. I ground the beans using +30 setting on my Rocky. Soak filter with 200F water, add grounds, use 200F water to wet and bloom the grounds for 30 seconds and then brew 12 oz coffee in 3 minutes. Those conditions work very well for me. This was a very enjoyable coffee.

GaryH: Barefoot_Sidamo_Chemex1.jpg
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SL28ave
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Posted Fri Nov 14, 2008, 6:45pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

According to Gary H's picture, Barefoot's Sidamo is from the Mordecofe Co-op and was Natural processed. Stumptown is also selling a Mordecofe Co-op, and it was Washed (not Natural). Could make a great comparison.
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TinyBites
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Posted Mon Nov 17, 2008, 5:02pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

DonSt Said:

Will there be a review of the CoffeeGeek Discovery Series that was held last Sunday?  I'm interested in trends (if any) between Pacific Northwest and California Roasters. Thanks.

Posted October 27, 2008 link

Hi Don,

Coverage of the October tasting featuring Ritual Coffee is now online.  I am personally not familiar enough with West Coast roasters to be able to provide intelligent discourse on the subject, but perhaps Mark and others will be able to elaborate in the discussion thread for the new article.

Regards,
Karen

 
Karen Hamilton - Writer. Photographer. Marketer. Web Strategist.
http://tinybites.ca
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MiaTazza
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Posted Sat Nov 22, 2008, 4:30pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

Sad to say, I did not find this article very helpful.  While I feel it successfully articulated the struggles many coffee newcomers encounter when trying to find their "voice" in a coffee talk, I think this anecdote would be better suited for another forum.  I appreciate the personal touch the author added to this article, but I was hoping more of the subject matter would pertain to the Sidamos.  It was especially frustrating to read an article where the author didn't seem to enjoy tasting the coffee ("I was simply coffee’d out"), though I give her props for her enthusiasm (and honesty!) during the whole learning experience.

I did have one question about Sidamo.  In the article, the tasting group was discussing the dry processing of the beans, and that this is a characteristic of Sidamo.  I have only tried one Sidamo before and it was made with a washed process.  Is this farm specific?  I enjoyed the washed Sidamo.  Which is better or more authentic?  Thanks.

Mia
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MiaTazza
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Posted Sat Nov 22, 2008, 4:42pm
Subject: Re: An Exploration of Ethiopian Sidamos by Karen Hamilton
 

Oops!  Sorry if that post came off as jerky.  I should have noticed that the title of the series is Coffee DISCOVERY.  Discover away!

Mia
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