Up until now, I’ve experienced fruity, chocolatey, and nutty coffees. “Floral” was always a descriptor I saw associated with high-quality coffees, such as those grown at very high altitudes, but I’d never had a coffee that I thought was floral. This changed when I inhaled the first breath of Ethiopia Bale Mountain’s aroma, and later when I tasted the coffee for myself. I now understand why floral coffees are so prised in the speciality coffee industry.
My bag of Bale Mountain was purchased from Steampunk Coffee, a roaster based in North Berwick whose coffees I have tried in the past. This is the second year Steampunk has sold Bale Mountain. I got an excellent opportunity to learn about how this coffee was sourced by listening to the podcast episode Steampunk recorded with the importer of the coffee. In this podcast, I learned about the vertically-integrated supply chain of Bale Mountain. The Bale Mountain farm is owned by the same person as the processing and import and exporting bodies.
What does this mean for a coffee? It means that Isreal Degfa, who partially or fully owns various stages of Bale Mountain’s production, has more control over how the coffee is processed. This makes quality assurance easier: Degfa does not need to chase down people further back in the supply chain if any issues occur. Degfa can ensure that everyone in the chain – from the farmer to the exporter – is paid fairly. The Bale Mountain farming community has benefited well from this structure, as a lot of money from the coffee has flowed toward community projects.
The dry fragrance of Bale Mountain is floral and fruity. I was reminded of a blackcurrant jam, my favourite variety of jam, and got a strong scent of blueberry. I am unsure how to describe some of the floral aromas I could detect in the fragrance. The only thing I can say is that I kept thinking about my grandparents’ garden while smelling and tasting this coffee, which was full of both flowers and fruit plants.
The aroma of this coffee was equally inviting: jammy and fruity. This aroma is unique in that I’ve never smelled such a floral aroma in a coffee. When I started to drink this coffee, I thought of it like I was drinking a jam. The body was light, which I’ve not come to associate with coffees with berry flavours. This is not to the detriment of the coffee: the light body pairs well with the sweetness and sharp acidic bite of the coffee.
Bale Mountain produces a smooth cup that I want to continue drinking past the last sip. Throughout the cup – from the first to the last sip – I could taste blueberry and blackcurrant, with blueberry being the most prominent flavour. This coffee competes for one of the highest levels of acidity I have tasted, second to a Kenyan peaberry I had a few weeks ago. I could detect floral flavours but I was not sure how to describe them. I do not have a good vocabulary of these flavours, other than to say that this coffee had floral notes.
Bale Mountain is complex with many different flavours present; blackcurrant and blueberry are the ones I could detect most.
This coffee has a long and lingering finish, leaving a fruity impression on the tongue which I could still taste ten minutes after I had finished the coffee. The finish is somewhat heavy, a nice contrast to the lightness of the brew. The finish leaves notes of blueberry and blackcurrant, and a feeling that I’d like another cup of Bale Mountain.
I am curious to try more floral coffees, which I may have avoided in the past due to my lack of vocabulary around floral notes, to see what other flavours are possible on this spectrum. I find this coffee to be moreish and like a dessert. This coffee brought back a fond memory of the blackcurrant and gooseberry jelly at my grandparents’ dinner table. Although the coffee did not taste like this jelly exactly, this memory did come to mind.
About This Coffee
Varietal: Ethiopian Heirloom
Tastes: Blackcurrant, blueberry, floral notes