Ethiopia Shilcho Bedame - special prep

Ethiopia Shilcho Bedame - special prep

Shilcho is a cooperative located in the Bedame kebele (neighborhood) of Dara, a district close to the border of Gedeo Zone in Sidama, about halfway on the road between Yirga Alem and Yirgacheffe. This particular lot is the result of a special agreement, the first of its kind in the area, between our supplier Royal Coffee, the Shilcho cooperative, and the Sidama Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union (SCFCU). Incentivizing fully ripe cherry delivery, we’ve agreed to pay a $0.25 per pound premium directly to individual farmer for their delivery of red cherries to the washing station in order to create this specially prepped lot.

The idea of advertising 100% fully ripe coffee might seem a little silly at first; after all isn’t that one of the pillars of specialty coffee in the first place? You’d be surprised, however, at the challenge that fully ripened picking presents for farmers and especially cooperatives. Unlike a bunch of grapes, coffee does not ripen simultaneously on the branch. This means that the harvest, typically lasting 2-3 months in most places, requires multiple passes from laborers to pick all the fruit off of the trees. Incentivising ripe picking can be difficult for the low-wage workers, who are often paid by volume.

At the Shilcho cooperative, they’ve taken an extra step during the drying phase of their coffees, as well. Initially, immediately after fermentation, the coffee will “skin-dry” in full sun for a few hours. The semi-wet parchment then moves to parabolic dryers containing raised beds for a few days before returning to full sun.

The genetic diversity of Ethiopia’s indigenous coffee stock isn’t the only thing that makes its coffees remarkable. A time-tested system of channel washing and then soaking (aka double-washing) the coffee parchment after a long fermentation (36 hours in this case) helps to sort by density and clean away any remaining fruit pulp and fermenting microbes. There are also some indications that this post-fermentation soak may improve quality by tricking the seed into the initial stages of germination. After all this, the coffee is dried and hand-sorted on raised beds.

The result in this case is a pristine grade 1 Ethiopian coffee, with a typically high density and low moisture content. The screen size is surprisingly small; nearly two-thirds of the lot passes through screen 16. It’s possible that as a result the coffee could appear unexpectedly dark while roasting, so be sure to keep a close eye on the roast.

Tasting notes - Sweet, cherry, apricot, lemon, floral, chamomile, bright

Region - Dara Woreda, Sidama Zone, Southern Nations, Ethiopia

Farmer - 2670 smallholder farms of the Shilcho Cooperative

Cultivar - Heirloom varietes

Process - Double washed after depulping and fermenting, then dried on parabolic raised beds in the sun

Altitude - 1750-2000 masl

Harvest - October 2015-February 2016

Moisture content - 10.1%

Density - .684g/ml

Water activity - .53%

Screen size - 13-17

Defects/prep - Special prep, grade 1