Banko Natural Reserve - Rich in History, Dymamic in Flavor
We’ll admit it – coffee never gets old to us. Whether it’s a favorite blend like Huckleberry Roasters’ Blue Orchid or a delicate single origin like Caffe Ladro’s Malawi Mzuzu, every coffee takes us on a palatable journey. It’s a taste-filled explosion that, at its best, causes us to recall a slew of diverse flavors from the culinary world in one delicious cup. Berries, dark chocolate, brown sugar, brioche, jasmine – the variances from seed to seed abound.
It is without question, however, that some coffees stand above the rest. Near the top of the list sits Olympia Coffee Roasting Company’s Banko Natural Reserve. Regarded by the Seattle Coffee Gear staff as one of our most dynamic offerings, Banko displays delicious notes of blueberries and robust dark chocolate like no other.
As we gear up for its release, we wanted to catch up with Oliver Stormshak – Owner, Green Coffee Buyer and Roast Master for Olympia Coffee Roasting Company – to get a little bit more information about this incredibly special release.
Understanding Banko Natural Reserve: An Interview with Oliver Stormshak
Before anything else tell me about Banko, where it comes from, and what makes this coffee so special.
It comes from the small village of Banko Gotiti in the Gedeo Zone of Sidama within the area classified as Yirgacheffe District. Yirgacheffe is likely the birthplace of the Arabica species of coffee. Over a thousand varietals within the Arabica species are said to grow within the Yirgacheffe area. The Natural Process is the way this coffee has traditionally been processed for the last few thousand years. This is about as pure, traditional, and ancient as coffee can get. Banko is a selection of the oldest heirloom varietals grown in the world, in coffee's birthplace, presented in its purest form.
This last year has been incredibly turbulent politically for Ethiopia. For those who may not be aware of what’s happening, can you share about who and what is being affected in this turmoil?
Ethnic conflict in the southern regions to keep out, what are considered, outsiders. It's an ancient battle within Ethiopia that has been going on for thousands of years. It is rather complicated for westerners to truly understand. These conflicts spark up from time to time.
Ethiopian varieties are a precious commodity in the specialty coffee world. How has Olympia felt the effects of the setbacks in Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone? What might be different this year compared to other years?
We have a new team we are working with at Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU). The cooperative is undergoing a major shake up right now. There are not too many changes in terms of quality of coffee and direct purchasing within the cooperative. The large change for us is our customers will see some new names – we will be introducing a new cooperative to our customers this year called Halo. We purchased the majority of our natural process coffee from the Halo Cooperative and single coffee farmer Adisu Kindane this year. The real reason behind this is not conflict but simply quality. The Banko Gotiti Cooperative has finally opened their washing station (something they have been trying to do for years now). They processed 80% of their coffee in the washed method. The remaining 20% processed naturally were separated and cupped by us and did not meet our quality expectations with the exception of this lot. FYI we will have Banko as washed coffee this year!
Even as there have been difficulties in this region, a rebuilding process has been happening that has provided a lot of hope. Can you tell us more about that?
It's a work in progress at this point.
What can a people do to help or stay up to date on what’s happening in Ethiopia?
We don't have a great source for honest on the ground information outside of emailing our cooperative partners at this point. So keep your eyes peeled to our social media spots at @olympiacoffee.