Good morning and welcome to today’s review, a pre-Labor Day weekend (USA) taste of one of Theodore’s Coffee Roasters current Ethiopian coffees. Let’s drink!
Other reviews in this series: Banti Nenga (Ethiopian natural process)
THEODORE’S COFFEE ROASTERS ETHIOPIA DEMEKA BECHA
Today’s review feels like the closing of a big circle for me. It was about 2015 when I decided to really focus on coffee reviews on KC Coffee Geek. On a trip to Portland, OR for work, I had the opportunity to visit Case Study out there and met Emily McIntyre, who has a long career working in all aspects of the coffee industry. Our short meeting and her words of support told me I was on the right path, and here we are 7 years later! Her latest venture is Catalyst Trade, spending enormous amounts of time with her husband, Q-grader Michael McIntyre, with boots on the ground in Ethiopia, meeting farmers, co-op managers and everyone else involved in coffee there to gain a deep understanding of the birthplace of coffee and the people responsible. The McIntyre’s are sourcing some of the best Ethiopian coffees to be exported there and that brings me to the subject of today’s review, Darwin Pavon and Theodore’s Coffee Roasters. Much like Emily, Darwin was an early supporter of KC Coffee Geek and he has sent maybe more coffee to me to check out than any other roaster. He’s defintely in the top 3-4 for sure. This has given me a good understanding of Theodore’s sourcing and roasting, and I’ve yet to have a bad coffee from them. That two of my earliest friends in coffee are working together to bring coffees like this Demeka Becha to us is just a really cool thing and gives me good vibes for days! Darwin is the founder of Theodore’s Coffee Roasters (named after his grandfather, I believe), who recently moved from central Michigan over to the west coast in Zeeland, MI, 10 minutes from where I used to live! Darwin was born in Honduras and has worked with thousands of coffee farmers in central and South America as an agronomist. Theodore’s is one of my go-to recommendations for people looking for good coffee. “But what should I buy, they have a bunch of different offerings.” My reply, “Yes, buy it all!” LOL
This morning’s coffee is one Catalyst’s exports, and I LOVED Theodore’s roasting of their Banti Nenga. There’s a link to that review above. That was a natural process coffee and it was as good as any I’ve had from Ethiopia, a total victory for both Catalyst and Theodore’s! This morning’s coffee is from a different region, Sidama, and it’s a washed coffee. This SHOULD be a more subtle coffee than an Ethiopian natural, with more subdued fruits, possibly a good amount of lemon and plenty of tea-like notes. But I am painting with a VERY wide brush, here! I’ll tell you a lot more about the coffee after I share my tasting notes, I don’t want to bias my palate by reading the label or looking at the website.
As far as prep goes, I am using my standard pourover method of a 1:16.5 ratio of 22g of coffee to 363g of Third Wave Water in a Trinity Origin dripper. This is a flat-bottom, 3-hole dripper like a Kalita Wave, et al, and uses Kalita 155 filters. I grind with an Orphan Espresso Lido 3 and I pulse pour the water through a Melodrip for consistency and to not agitate the brew bed during brewing. This coffee came in at a total 4:30 including a 45 second bloom.
My Tasting Notes
There were some nice floral, almost perfume-like, aromas coming from this coffee as I started brewing. That mellowed out quite a bit in the finished pot, but they’re still there a bit. I’m getting some light caramelized sugars here in the aroma, too. Taking a sip, this is a medium- to light+ bodied coffee for me. Definitely right about this being a more subtle coffee than the Banti Nenga natural I reviewed. There’s a round, light sweetness anchoring this coffee. It’s not honey-like in flavor at all, but reminds me of that type of coating sweetness. I’m getting some white grape here, which gives a fresh crispness to the sweetness in the cup. I always love finding grape in coffee and this is a nice example of white/green grape for me. Some of that perfumed floral from the aroma is coming through for me in some sips and it’s quite subtle, not easy to find. This coffee is VERY easy to take big gulps of as it has cooled to my preferred lukewarm tasting temp, so I have to be careful not to gulp through my cup without tasting what I need to taste! Bigger sips give me some hints of orange around the edges and a good amount of orange in the lingering aftertaste, too. There’s a little bit of watermelon here for me, too. This is definitely not a watermelon bomb, but I’m getting hints of it for sure in the mid- to late sip.
I’m not getting much of the lemon I assumed I would, but not all washed Ethiopians are lemon forward, either, so that was just a broad generalization I was making before. There is a subtle citrus acidity to the cup coming with that hint of orange, and there may be just like the slightest spritz of lemon here, but this is not what I would call a lemon-y coffee. I wouldn’t personally list it on the label, let’s put it that way, where it would be the first thing I listed for other coffees. There is a just a hint of fruity tartness here, a little bit from the orange and that VERY small hint of lemon… more from the green grape… it reminds me a little of the sweet-tartness of apricots, but it’s not quite what I would call apricot, either. It’s close to that, though. There’s an oolong tea vibe here for me and the second I wrote that, peach came into my head. I have an oolong tea from the excellent folks at Hugo Tea Co. here in KC that is rather peachy, so associations are being made all over my brain! The cooled cup at room temperature all of a sudden has an oolong tea and peach note to it for me, almost peach nectar in a cup. This is how powerful your brain’s associations are on flavor perception and why I do everything I can to see as little about a coffee as I can before I take my tasting notes!
This coffee is perfectly balanced, has a sweet finish and a subtle, but lingering aftertaste that is a little peachy, a little melony, and has hints of orange and oolong in it. Excellent cup, for sure! If you have to pick one of these two Ethiopian offerings I’d probably direct most drinkers to the Banti Nenga because it’s less subtle and more of a crowd-pleaser, but these are both absolutely fantastic offerings!
More About the Coffee
Alright, this is where we get to see how my palate and Darwin’s match up (or not!). Checking out the page for this Demeka Becha this is, like I said, a washed coffee from the Sidama zone of Ethiopia. It comes from smallholder farmers around Becha village, and coffee grows as 2100-2200masl there. Theodore’s gives us tasting notes of, “Limoncello, ginger ale, candied grapefruit, watermelon soda” so I was at least in the ballpark! Those are some pretty specific callouts and I can see all of them here in retrospect. This is a damn fine coffee sourced by great people who REALLY care about the people in the supply chain, and roasted by someone who is also deeply invested in the farmers and producers responsible for his raw materials… how can you go wrong?