Our current washed Yirgacheffe is a large co-op coffee; the sum of many small lots from the members. It is a clean, consistent coffee, and a great representation of what I consider to be a very good Yirg. The bean sizes and shapes within the lot range from small, spherical, and almost Bourbon-like to the large, dramatically elongated Longberry seeds.
These qualities suggested to me that it offered a decent opportunity to taste the differences between the longberry and shortberry type seeds from within the same lot. Ultimately, I would love to taste a longberry and shortberry sample grown on the same plot of land, and processed in precisely the same way, but that is no easy task when dealing with coffee from Ethiopia. I realize that since this is a cooperative coffee, any difference in cup quality could easily be due to variations in handling before being blended into the exported lot. On the other hand, I would imagine that most farmers in the Yirgacheffe region are probably paying relatively little attention to what cultivars they are growing, and many farms could have good diversity.
Last week, I hand sorted and roasted a half pound sample of each bean shape. Batch A consisted of the least elongated seeds, which I presume to be shortberry types, and Batch B was the obvious longberry types. The visual difference between the two was pretty dramatic, especially before roasting. Also, the shortberry seeds outnumbered the longberry ones by what seemed to be about five or ten to one. I didn't notice any huge differences in the roaster. The shortberry batch seemed to release more aroma at first crack, but it wasn't anything I would have noticed if I wasn't looking for it. The temperature profiles were very close between the two.
We cupped them after 3 days of rest, and I didn't tell my co-cuppers what we were cupping. After I set up the cups, I left the room and had them either switch or not switch the sets of cups, but not tell me if they did or didn't. It was basically a ghetto-double-blind cupping.
I went into this fully expecting the Longberry batch to be the better of the two. The fact that the seeds are different and unusual, and the fact that the shape closely resembles Gesha, led me to believe that they were somehow superior.
When we cupped the two side by side, we all quickly agreed that Batch A was notably better. The aroma was more intense, and it had substantially more acidity. It had more Yirgacheffe character, and was a more flavorful cup.
Batch B was good, but lacking next to batch A. The floral aromatics were subdued, the acidity was lacking, and, overall, it was a very clean, but mild and bland cup.
They were two very different coffees. I scored batch A four points higher than B, and if I would have included cupper's points it would have gained one or two more. I was very surprised to learn that it was the shortberry cup.
I'll be repeating this with another similar lot in the near future. I'm anxious to see if the results are the same.
Also, it seems like good information is hard to come by when it comes to the Ethiopian longberry and shortberry varieties. Are these actually unique cultivars, or just labels people like to throw on the unknown trees growing in Ethiopia? I know there are numerous longberry and shortberry types, but I'm still not clear if they are also singular varieties.