Dear Bird Lovers,
I shop a lot at Aldi (although I’m not affiliated with them at all), firstly because good money is hard to come by and I’ve become awesome at hoarding my money like a mighty dragon, and secondly because my SO, much like a hummingbird, consumes around ½ his body-weight in food every day, so it’s either shopping at Aldi, or non-stop Ramen.
I don’t usually expect a whole lot from the coffee selection at Aldi, but this week I made a pleasant but mysterious discovery! You may have read a few of my more recent articles about the importance of Bird-Friendly coffee and where you can find it online, but if you haven’t I definitely suggest looking them over now if you want to know all the nitty-gritty details of the subject.
Suffice to say, I never expected to find anything at Aldi that even approached Bird-Friendly, and I didn’t! I did, however, find something claiming to be Shade Grown coffee from a single source in Ethiopia and I was immediately interested. I was intrigued by the idea of finding a shade-grown coffee at Aldi, was sustainable, conservation-minded coffee stewardship gaining traction on a larger scale, or was this a case of buzzwords run amok?
It had nothing to do with the fact that I saw coffee with a pretty Kingfisher on the label and decided immediately that I must have it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently.
Hey Coffee, are You Really Shade Grown?
The thing that excited me most about this coffee was the fact that it said “Shade Grown” in huge letters all over the front, but you can’t always trust the accuracy of that claim right away. You see, there isn’t actually an official “Shade Grown” label on the market. What we have instead is the Rainforest Alliance label, which (as of 2017) requires a certain level of canopy cover per hectare of land, and The Smithsonian Bird-Friendly Label.
The Bird-Friendly Label is the gold standard coffee label for bird lovers, it’s the only true “shade grown” certification we have right now. You can read more about Bird-friendly coffee if you want, but I’m going to move on for now, because today’s coffee is still quite a distance away from such lofty standards!
So, is the coffee I found at Aldi shade grown? The answer is an unsatisfying maybe. A term like shade-grown, without any official certification to back it up, could theoretically be slapped on anything with a bigger bush near it for all we know.
Also, as I continued to look into the coffee I impulse-bought this weekend I came across a strange mystery…
The Strange Mystery
…I couldn’t find this coffee anywhere online, not one mention! I even tried reverse-image searching to see if the label matched anything, but alas Google images had never heard of my coffee!
I looked everywhere for a review of this coffee or even someone who had heard of it, but I only found it on the Aldi website and on its brand (Barissimo) website. I don’t know if this coffee is something that just became available at Aldi, or if this is just an undiscovered gem.
However, since no reviews for this coffee made themselves apparent, I’m going to do my best to review it for you! I am by no means a coffee expert, the only things I’ve ever “tasted” professionally are various types of liquor for an old job I had.
I was pleasantly surprised by this coffee though, and I think other people might like it to, so here goes nothing.
Barissimo Ethiopia Whole Bean Coffee (100% Arabica)
To start with I want you to know that this coffee is not labeled Bird-Friendly or Rainforest Alliance, so we can’t be certain that it’s actually shade grown, despite the big label on the front. It does have the USDA Organic label, which means that the coffee was grown without harmful pesticides and with sustainable agricultural practices. That’s a big +1 for this coffee!
The coffee also carries the Fair Trade label, which means that all of the workers involved in its production were paid a fair wage. So even if this coffee isn’t completely ideal from a bird conservation standpoint, it is still an excellent choice if you happen to be at Aldi.
Now we get to the good stuff, rating the coffee itself! Ill rate my Barissimo Shade Grown coffee on three different levels, appearance, scent, and flavor. Like I said before, I’m no expert, I just know what I like.
The Bean – The beans initially looked a little darker than I would usually expect from a medium roast, but when you move them into the light you can see some deep cinnamon tones that shine through the darker milk-chocolate color you see initially.
The Coffee – The look of this coffee is what really reassured me that the beans hadn’t been roasted too darkly. The color was a smooth deep amber. The clarity of the liquid was gorgeous, like looking into a gem. I’m not sure if clarity is that important in coffee (Nooo, my years of Scotch drinking have betrayed me!) like it is in some other things.
I really appreciated the clarity of this coffee, because, with my white coffee mug, the reddish tones shone through more clearly the closer I got to the bottom of the cup. I feel like the visual element really added something special to my coffee drinking experience!
The Bean – Opening up the can was a very present aromatic experience. I got a strong impression of milk chocolate a moist earth of off my initial big whiff of coffee beans, but it was after the coffee was brewed that the aroma of it really shone through.
The Coffee – I got mostly a sweet scent (aside from a nice smooth coffee smell) from the brewed coffee, almost fruit but not quite, like a cherry blossom. My SO really pinned the scent perfectly though, a light Little floral note but an evening flower like jasmine. It immediately makes me want to sit on a porch in a rocking chair watching the twilight fade out of the sky with a cup of this coffee in my hands!
For as much as I had been getting chocolaty vibes throughout my coffee experience so far, my very first sip made me feel that the majority of the sweetness of the sweetness of this coffee comes from a strong fruit flavor. Not just fruit though, I get more of a dark cherry flavor after my first drink.
The overall flavor is very smooth, with very little bitterness at all. The coffee has a very light body (or mouthfeel or whatever it’s called for coffee) I feel like the flavor dances lightly across my tongue, instead of stomping all over it like some other (worse) coffee I’ve had.
The aftertaste is where those hints of chocolate come creeping back in. There’s a very mild bitter taste that lingers in your mouth, but it’s the sort of bitterness that lingers after a bite of dark chocolate, still vaguely sweet.
Overall, I think that Barissimo’s Ethiopian Shade Grown coffee is a generally mild, even-tempered experience. It’s certainly not the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, but it’s a significant step up if you’re mostly used to name brand monoculture style coffee. As with everything at Aldi, you really can’t beat the price and it was definitely one of the best experience I’ve ever had with Aldi coffee.
I am a little concerned that this coffee is labeled shade grown, but lack certification from anyone that takes forest cover into consideration. Then again this could be a relatively new coffee, I’ve certainly never heard of it, hopefully, they plant to go after a Bird-Friendly certificate in the future.
I hope they do! I would love for way more people to be aware that Bird-Friendly is a standard that we can strive for. More people buying Bird-Friendly coffee means that more coffee growers will seek Bird-Friendly certification, and more important habitats will be preserved for birds (and everyone else) to enjoy.
If you’d like to learn more about what makes a coffee Bird-Friendly, please check out this article right here for some more information.
If you’d like to see some of the best Bird-Friendly coffee varieties I found for sale on Amazon, head over to this article for my review.