Ever since I had learnt – via text and taste – the characteristics of coffees from different regions in the world I knew I would not be a fan of African coffees – traditionally produced in washed processing, where the period of fermentation develops acidity in the beans. And, as you might have already learnt, I am particularly not a fan of acidic coffee.
I feel obliged to once more make the distinction between acidity and bitterness: acidic taste of coffee is deliberate, characteristic of a specific region of origin and/or the processing method the beans go through post-harvest; bitter taste is a post-brewing effect, denoting bad handling of beans after roasting or lack of skill of the handler.
So, returning to my original point: African coffees tend to be of high acidity, with distinct citrusy and floral notes. I learnt this first with a Kenyan brew, that is often recommended to be enjoyed over ice on a hot day – but personally, I’ve never been a fan of iced lemon tea, which is similar to what you get with iced Kenya (providing that you drink coffee on a regular basis – I guarantee that you wouldn’t make that comparison if you were a coffee-abstinent). Knowing this, I still succumbed to a very strong recommendation of Yirgacheffe – specifically, as an accompaniment to a Sunday scrambled-eggs breakfast.
Yirgacheffe originates from the home of coffee – Ethiopia, where (the legend has it) a goat-herder noticed the stimulating effect the fruit of the coffee shrub had on his flock – an observation he shared with a local monk, who tested the beans in his monastery, where, eventually, pouring water over crushed beans produced the first prototype of a cup of coffee. This single origin offering promisses the same flavours other African coffees do – with the addition of the very intense floral notes that are impossible to ignore. The strong scent that wafted over me when the tin was opened at MacBeans was so unexpected and intriguing that at once I knew that I had to overcome my prejudice and give this one ago.
I tried it two ways: brewed in a Mocha brewer – the pot you put on a stove – and ran through an Espresso machine. In both cases the taste left me baffled. I have to admit, I am still intrigued over the strong floral essence in the coffee, confined not only in the smell but also the taste: drinking it you can almost imagine rose and jasmine petals melting on your tongue. It was very smooth and light-to-medium-bodied (Espresso produced a more syrupy-texture), and very clean – after the subtle and yet vivacious floral sensation there was virtually no aftertaste. It still preserved some of the African acidity however, so I could imagine it being an even better ice-offering than Kenya, if we had a decent summer in Scotland…
Although Ethiopia Yirgacheffe certainly managed to wow! me with a feast for many senses, I fear my stance towards African coffee has not changed – but I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is not a fan of dark roasts and lingering syrupy tastes. A must try, as myself has proven.