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Review of a Bronze Medal Winner – Black Oak’s Hambela Alaka Ethiopian Coffee - The Coffee Pragmatist

Review of a Bronze Medal Winner – Black Oak’s Hambela Alaka Ethiopian Coffee

Black Oak Ethiopian review

Hambela Alaka is the first of two Black Oak Ethiopian coffee beans I purchased from Black Oak Coffee Roasters website.

There’s a reason, besides the fact I like Ethiopian coffees, I chose these two roasted coffees.

These two Black Oak Ethiopian coffees are Champion Award winners of the 2017 Coffee Roasters Competition & Conference.

black oak coffee roaster award winner

The coffee reviewed in this post, the Hambela Alaka, is a Bronze Champion and their Chelelektu Natural is a Gold Champion! The later will be reviewed in another post.

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Black Oak Coffee Roasters

Black Oak has been roasting coffee since 2012 in Ukiah, California and has received several awards and a lot of recognition in coffee circles.

Black Oak sells coffee wholesale, through their website and they also run a local cafe and are community focused.

According to their website, Black Oak donated their recent prize money and a portion of cafe sales to the people of Mendocino County who’ve been ravaged by wildfires.

Black Oak Ethiopia Bronze Medal Winner

Black Oak Hambela Alaka Ethiopian Review


This coffee is grown and sourced from the Hambela estate located in Alaka District, Oromia Region of Ethiopia.

Hambela employs over 70% women and provides technical assistance to local farmers.

Like Black Oak, Hambela gives back to their community. Hambela was the first organization to partner with Grounds for Health in Ethiopia to implement a cervical cancer screening program.

The Hambela Alaka beans come from a variety of indigenous heirloom cultivars. There’s no mention of what elevation the coffee bushes are grown. But, Ethiopia is located on a high plateau that varies from 4,200- to 9,900-feet above sea level with mountains that range higher.

The Beans

When the bag first opens the aroma that comes to mind is a fruity and earthy tea.

The color of the beans are light-brown and are small to medium in size. The beans are very firm and grind hard in my Porlex hand grinder.

Black Oak Ethiopian

The ground coffee smells fruity but reminds me more of sweet tea leaves.

The Hambela Alaka aroma isn’t the strongest Ethiopian I’ve smelled, but it’s interesting with the earthy tea notes and is very pleasant to my senses.

Brewed Coffee

As with most Ethiopian coffees, used my Hario V60 and Chemex when brewing Black Oaks Hambela Alaka. Though, once, I did use a Clever Dripper. The V60 and Chemex made better coffee.

The grind was varied between the fourth and fifth setting on the Porlex grinder. I stuck with the typical 16:1 water to coffee ratio with water temperatures between 200- and 205-degrees.

The first sip of a new coffee is always the best and the first impression of Black Oak Alaka Ethiopian didn’t let me down.

It's a sweet coffee with faint notes of tea. As the coffee cooled in the cup, the flavor notes were more fruity but still sweet with a hint of acidity. The aftertaste is very pleasant, not heavy at all, with no bitterness.

On the coffee bag label, Black Oaks list flavor notes of peach and jasmine tea. I’m not sure I can pick out peach notes, but those with better taste buds probably could since I did notice some fruitiness.

I mentioned that I brewed a cup of this coffee with the Clever Dripper. Not that the cup tasted bad, but the coffee from the other drippers tasted better to me so I didn’t mess around with the grind settings or brew time to dial in the Clever.

Bean & Roasting Info

  • Roast Level: Medium/Light
  • Producers: Aman Adinew, Hambela Estate
  • Country of Origin: Ethiopia
  • Region: Southern Ethiopia on the border of the Sidama and Guji zones.
  • Variety: Indigenous heirloom cultivars
  • Processing Method: Washed
  • Growing Altitude: Not listed
  • Roaster Tasting Notes: Peach Candy and Jasmine Tea – Sweetness of raw sugar cane, stone fruit, and vibrant floral tones.
Black Oak Coffee Roasters

Summary of Black Oak’s Hambela Alaka Ethiopian Coffee Review

Black Oak’s Hambela Alaka Ethiopian coffee is a sweet coffee with an interesting flavor profile. Usually Ethiopian coffee is very fruity from the get go. However, the Alaka’s fruitness doesn’t peak until the coffee cools down.

Instead, the coffee has an underlying earthy tea flavor with a surprising sweetness and a hint of fruity brightness and acidity as the coffee cools in your cup.

If you want to try an Ethiopian coffee with a bit of different flavor profile try Black Oak’s Hambela Alaka. I recommend brewing this coffee by a pour-over brewer, but those that like a heavier mouth-feel and more body I’m sure it will be easy to dial in this coffee.

A Note On Ordering Through Black Oak’s Website

Using Black Oak’s website to order coffee was painless. I ordered two 12-ounce bags of coffee and once I placed the order I almost immediately got a confirmation e-mail that they received my order and that it has been packaged for shipment.

My order also qualified for free shipping! Because the total of my order was more than $25 shipping was free.

I placed my order at 7:30 pm November 20th and received it 4:06 pm on the 24th. Remember Black Oak is located in California and I live across the country in upstate New York. I also received a coupon for 10% off my next order.

That’s great customer service in my opinion!


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