Tasting Box: 01/01

By Evan Howe


For the inaugural installment of Passenger’s brand new cup taster’s membership, it seemed quite fitting to start with two beautiful coffees from Ethiopia, the country where coffee itself originated. While the specific location of coffee’s birth is thought to be the cloud forests of western Ethiopia, the present selections come from the south - specifically the kebele (neighborhood) of Worka Chelbessa in the woreda (district) of Gedeb.

Some years back, an Ethiopian businessman named Neguesse Debela had a “coffee epiphany” while on a trip to Minnesota. After witnessing the preparation of a pour-over in a specialty coffee shop, he gained a new appreciation for the potential of top quality coffees from his home country. Shortly after returning home, Neguesse founded SNAP Specialty Coffee, a quality-focused export operation that, in a relatively short period of time, has earned a stellar reputation as the source of some of the finest coffees in all of Ethiopia. In addition to buying and exporting coffees from other top washing stations, Neguesse, his quality manager Abenezer Asafaw, and the rest of the SNAP team also produce coffees at their own processing sites. The two selections that have been chosen for this tasting box come from a washing station that they own and operate in the Worka Chelbessa area.

“Processing” in coffee refers to all of the steps that are taken to transform freshly harvested coffee cherries into “green coffee” (i.e. dried coffee seeds that have been prepared for export and eventual roasting). While the two lots featured here are composed of the same Arabica varieties and grown by the same community of farmers, they have been processed in entirely different ways. For the Wet Processed lot, the coffee fruit was removed immediately after harvest, and the coffee seeds were washed and dried following pulping. For the Dry Processed lot, the fruit was not initially removed, and the cherries were meticulously dried with the seeds left inside, allowing for prolonged ‘fruit contact’ throughout drying. Tasting these coffees comparatively provides a delightful illustration of the impact of processing approach on eventual cup profile