Beyond 2001 A Coffee Odyssey

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     Doug E. Cadmus

The Mystery Cup Challenge


Mystery Cup: Sample A...

Ethiopian Yrgacheffe -- Washed:  Grown in the area around the town of Yrga Cheffe, near Lake Abaya, in the Sidamo district south of the capital of Addis Ababa. "Yirga Cheffe -- Considered the finest of all coffees grown in the horn of Africa, the most prevalent taste characteristic is lemon, which gives a distinct tart bite that combines with a rich, floral finish. (363,000 bags -- Altitude: 5800-6600 ft)" [1] "Yirgacheffe: A rich coffee with a pleasant finish and lingering after taste. Real mocha, medium-bodied with tart acidity. With a flavor reminiscent of a burgundy wine, it produces a floral aroma." [2]

"The Birthplace of Coffee: Chosen by nature, arabica coffee has been growing wild in the Ethiopian forests for thousands of years. Man came into the picture as a cultivator approximately in the 15th century. Arabica coffee, which is the only species produced in Ethiopia, was distributed to the rest of the world by nomads, who wrapped beans in fat, chewing them for energy and sustenance on their adventures throughout Africa and the Middle East. "Present coffee production is an improvement of the forest coffee that grew in nature, contributing over 60% of the country's export earnings. Small holders account for 90-95% of the annual production and the rest is grown on government-owned plantations.

"More than any other country, Ethiopia has a broad genetic diversity among its coffee varieties. Aroma and flavor are among the unique characteristics found in coffees. Nine different bean varieties are cultivated in the four growing areas, all with distinctive tastes, sizes, shapes, and colors. Ecological factors affecting these characteristics include rainfall, temperature, altitude and soil. Shade, which combines with temperature, is another factor that plays an important role in coffee production. Annual production is estimated at 4.6 million bags.

"Sustainability, quality and availability are the priorities in the strategy for continuing coffee production in Ethiopia. The Coffee and Tea Authority monitors the production and exportation of all coffees through their auction system."

"The coffee sector is the major source of employment in most rural areas, especially for women. About 10 million people (roughly a quarter of the population) are engaged, either directly or indirectly, in the production, processing and trading of coffee. The economy and political and social culture of Ethiopia are therefore dependent and directly related to the coffee sector." [1]

[1] "Ethiopia -- The Birthplace of Coffee," Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Authority pamphlet.
[2] Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union flyer.

Cupping Results

Sample A proved to be something of a flavor powerhouse, in many ways dominating the field, and perhaps overpowering some of the coffees that followed in the cupping session. Its gigantic flavor and aroma, lemony acidity and tea-and-flowers finish elicited a number of reactions from cuppers... it's the single most-commented-on coffee in the challenge. 

Chart of cupping results.

Notable remarks:

"...this coffee struck me as superior to nearly all of the others in every criterion." --Aaron Holland

"Extraordinary in its liqueur flavors and clean taste." 
--Jim Schulman

"...hints of tangerine."
--Tim Reed

"...very drinkable - the one I reached for until it was gone."
--Mark Gilstrap

"Bright and brash - Woo Hooo!"
--Ed Needham

Mystery Cup A: click to view full sized...
Roast profile
Map of Origin Origin Map
How We Voted

See Also: