East African Coffee Competition

SGC-Bulk-CoffeeStockton Graham & Co. associates blend different backgrounds and experiences into one common passion, COFFEE. Our team of former café owners, franchise consultants, marketers and coffee geeks is dedicated to continually exploring and learning about specialty coffees and what makes them special. Every week at Stockton Graham & Co., we hold an internal coffee competition to test our skills and refresh our specialty coffee knowledge.

In our most recent competition we focused on East African coffees and what differentiates them from coffees grown in other regions of the world. The challenge was to create a blend that brought out the best of each East African single origin coffee that we have available: Uganda Bulaago, Tanzania Peaberry, Kenya AB and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. To start, each team brewed and tasted the coffees individually to discover their best features before attempting to combine them into a blend.

SGC-COFFEE-collegeThis challenge put the coffee we were tasting in the context of the region they were from, creating a greater sense of understanding of not only the background of our single origins, but of the history behind some of our favorite and more complex coffees. East Africa is the birthplace of coffee, it can still be found growing wild there today, and coffees from this region share many of the same characteristics specialty coffee lovers favor. In general, East African coffees are described as striking and intense, having fruity and wine-like flavors and a floral aroma. Coffees from this region are extremely diverse, with complex flavors and bright acidity; making blending them especially difficult. Both teams were tasked with developing their own flavor profile for each single origin coffee. The following descriptions are from the two groups’ response to the first part of the competition:

Uganda Bulaago: This coffee has an unusual, yet pleasant flavor of sweet spice, raisin and baker’s chocolate. The smooth and sweet body has a medium lemon acidity.

Tanzania Peaberry: With the aroma of a sweet fruit, the creamy body of this varietal gives way to a woody, chocolate flavor. A lively, bright acidity meets a sweet and dry finish in this cup.

Kenya AB: The heavy body and distinct grapefruit flavor of this single origin is complemented by a mild acidity. Overall, this coffee has a silky mouth feel and a dry, wine-like finish. 

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe: This coffee has a uniquely intense berry flavor with a medium lemon acidity. The pleasantly smooth body offers hints of subtle spices, creating an enjoyably complex cup.

SourcingThe next step in the competition was to come up with a blend. Both teams found this challenge to be interesting and a little tricky. Let’s just say the front of the house might be sticking to their day jobs and leaving the art of blending coffee in the capable hands of our roasters. The winning blend was comprised of Uganda Bulaago, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and Kenya Peaberry. The team found Uganda to have the mellowest flavors and started with it as a base for the blend. The Yirgacheffe added an interesting tang and allowed the Kenya to round out the blend with a sweet raisin, lemon and chocolate flavor. The blend was prepared in a Chemex brewer to allow for the medium, silky body that the team was looking to achieve. The team used a ratio of 43-45 grams of coffee to 680-690 grams of water. The ideal water temperature was around 200°F-205°F to bring out the best flavors. The winning blend was named “Burundi” and the flavor profile is listed below:

Burundi: The aroma of tart cherries welcomes the drinker to the deep flavor of nutty chocolate and sweet raisins in a cup of this East African blend. A bright lemon acidity complements the medium silky body and a dry, chocolaty finish.

In addition to our weekly competitions, we regularly host Coffee College classes. If you would like to experiment with your team, call 800 835 5943 to request samples of our East African single origin coffees.