Black Oak Coffee Roasters - Ethiopia Hambela Alaka$17.50
Disclosure: I received a 12oz bag of the coffee for free in exchange for a review. I do my best to not let free coffee submissions influence my ratings, but of course, it is impossible to eliminate all potential biases.
You can learn more about how I review coffee here.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed an Ethiopian coffee that was quite possibly my favorite coffee of the year. That coffee, the Ethiopia Chelelektu Natural, also happened to be roasted by Black Oak Coffee Roasters.
While the Hambela Alaka (which I’m reviewing here) didn’t do quite as well as the Chelelektu in my tastings, it definitely isn’t a bad coffee by any stretch.
In fact, it is currently a nominee for the 2018 Good Food Awards and won bronze at the 2017 Golden Bean Awards for the espresso category.
So let’s take a closer look to see why this coffee is getting so much positive attention (hint: it’s not just the Black Oak PR team).
General Notes & Observations
Producers: Hambela Estate
Country of Origin: Ethiopia
Variety: Indigenous Heirloom
Processing method: Washed
Growing altitude: Unknown
Roaster aroma notes: None
Coffee Concierge aroma notes: Floral, dark chocolate, herbal, pine needles
Roaster tasting notes: Peach candy, jasmine tea
Coffee Concierge tasting notes: Floral, jasmine, peach, cherry, cantaloupe
Brew Methods & Equipment Used
- Chemex 6 Cup Glass Coffeemaker
- Behmor Connected Coffeemaker
- MyPressi Twist Espresso Maker
- Hario V60 Pour Over Coffee Dripper
- Kalita Wave Pour Over Coffee Dripper
- Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle
- Espro Calibrated Tamper
- Breville Smart Grinder Pro
As I mentioned earlier, the Hambela Alaka was a Bronze winner in the espresso category at the Golden Bean 2017 coffee competition.
It’s also a 2018 Good Food Awards nominee.
We had some friends over for Halloween and decided to cup the Hambela Alaka, along with 4 other coffees I had recently received, 3 of which also came from Black Oak.
Although I initially knew which coffee was which, as we proceeded to the cupping I couldn’t remember the order. So, for the most part, this was a blind cupping because we neither knew which coffee had won awards, nor what the various tasting notes were on each of the bags.
The Hambela Alaka was coffee #2 in our lineup, and it didn’t cup nearly as well as I think it could have. My hunch is that the coffee had cooled way too much by the time each of us had finally gotten around to it, and because of this, we were all picking up a lot of sourness.
Some of the other taste descriptions we amateur cuppers came up with:
- Sour lemon
Of the four coffees I received from Black Oak, the Hambela Alaka was my least favorite of those we cupped.
Brewing the coffee through more traditional methods however, resulted in a much more pleasant experience. Whereas the floral elements were nowhere to be found in the cupping, they started to surface when brewed as drip and espresso.
The Hambela Alaka was a much different experience when brewed as espresso.
Cherry syrup is the best way I could describe it, which was really so much different from how it came out as drip coffee.
I wasn’t able to produce any of the floral, peachy notes that were popping off the tongue when brewed pretty much any other way.
Remember, espresso was the category this coffee was awarded with the Bronze, so there is definitely potential if this is how you choose to brew this coffee. And hey, I have no problem with cherry syrup…unless of course, it’s cough syrup.
Drip Coffee Experience
The Golden Bean judges may not agree with me, but to me, drip coffee was the better brew method for the Hambela Alaka.
When brewing through my auto drip, the Behmor Connected, I was able to taste the floral, jasmine notes that Black Oak noted on the bag.
As a pour-over brewed with my Hario V60, I not only picked up the same floral notes, but also traces of cantaloupe.
Overall, drip was probably my preferred brew method for the Hambela Alaka.
Press Coffee Experience
I brewed the Hambela Alaka as both French Press and American Press (a brewer I’ve been experimenting with for the last few months).
As French Press, I under-extracted the crap out of it. It was just a sour mess, reminiscent of the cupping experience.
As an American Press however, wowee! The peach tasting note on the bag finally showed up for me, albeit in the aftertaste. I’m not sure what made the American Press brew so good, and the French Press so bad, maybe dumb luck?
Or it’s possible that this coffee just needs a little bit of extra contact or finer grounds to get the most out of it. After all, it’s very easy to under-extract this one.
This is probably the brightest of the four coffees I received from Black Oak Coffee Roasters, and I would say to proceed with caution if that’s not your style.
It was also less forgiving than the other coffees, in that it was easy to under-extract and at times, difficult to extract the more stunning flavors (jasmine, peach).
Finally, I didn’t think the espresso was really anything to write home about, unless of course you like thick cherry syrup. If anything, I would brew this coffee mostly through drip methods and the American Press.
I’d steer clear of it if you only drink French Press.
You can buy this coffee from Black Oak Coffee while it’s still available by clicking the button below:
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