The Melko Belo district (Woreda) is in the traditional coffee area of East Harar area where they have an altitude averaging 1800 meters. In the cup, the light roasts had great peach notes, and a bit of bittering peach pit. Darker roasts had a hint of fresh earth, spice, chocolate, blackberry, silky milk chocolate finish. City+ to Full City+ roast, or combine multiple roast levels.
The Biftu Genema lot was part of the new direct trade auction (DST) in Ethiopia this year. It arrived very late, as much of the coffee shipped out of Ethiopia has in this year. DST refers to the Direct Specialty Trade Auction, a way for smaller lots of high quality to bypass the Coffee Exchange (ECX). With the DST we know where the coffee came from and who grew it, unlike the anonymous lots that go through the ECX. The Melko Belo district (Woreda) is in the traditional coffee area of East Harar area where they have better altitude (averaging 1800 meters for this lot). The cooperative's name, Biftu Genema means "sun rise" and it has 61 male members and 10 women. As for the coffee, it's one of the cleaner and sweeter Harars I have cupped, and given that there is very little Specialty grade Harar, period, it is rather rare to have this coffee available. Some background: Harar is on the wild side of Ethiopian coffee, from a former sultanate of the Harari people, and their ancient city center, the Jugol. Harar is alone in terms of geography, culture, and (sometimes) cup quality. Harar is a dry-processed coffee, the simple, rustic method where the ripe red coffee cherry is picked from the tree and layed in the sun to dry. It turns raisin-brown, then dries so the hard shell of fruit skin, mucilage and parchment shell can be torn from the green seed in one step. The result is wild cup flavors, fruited, chocolate, spice, earth, and thick body. But since it is such a crude process, there is little mechanized intervention in terms of quality control, no machine screening, density sorting, or electronic color sorting. Everything is done with the eye and the hand, as coffee is winnowed in baskets, under-ripes, broken beans, black beans, fermented beans, all removed visually in countless hours of work. It's a human-sorting system that makes up in character what it lacks in perfection. So Harar is a crapshoot too. Each roast has some light "quaker" beans in it; each batch roasts a little different, cups out with different flavors. That said, this coffee has undergone the DST screening process, and roasts with few issues compared to standard Harar offerings, what few there are.
This is a rustic coffee in terms of cup flavors, and complex too. The dry fragrance in lighter roasts has a potent apricot dried fruit notes, nutty roast tone, and has a strong rustic sweetness of honey and light molasses. Darker roasts are more balanced, spicey, with ginger snap scent. Adding the hot water, the aromas shift; the light roast is more earthy, with sweet hay notes, while darker roasts are more pungent and chocolaty. In the cup, the light City roast had great peach notes, but also a bit too much peach skin (tight, astringent finish) and a bit of bittering peach pit. I gravitated to the darker levels, FC-FC+, which ironed out the kinks of the lighter roast. The cup is rustic, sure, with a hint of fresh earth, humus. It also has spice and chocolate as the aromatics had suggested, with traces of blackberry in the finish. The mouthfeel seems full and rounded, with a silky milk chocolate finish. It's quite complex, and as it fades there are anise-black licorice notes, black tea, and mace spice. I made some interesting roast-level melanges from 1/3 of a City+ roast with 2/3 of Full City+. In fact it might have been my favorite cup of all. We have one more Harar lot still coming, but it is a standard one, not a Auction lot like this, and who knows if it will even pass muster on arrival and make it to our list. For now, this is Harar, and I am pretty happy about that.