Young and Hungry

Good Ethiopian Coffee Now in Hyattsville

I'll admit it: Starbucks is often my default morning cup, and I'll tell you why. It's convenient. You can't throw a Hear Music compilation CD without bonking some barista over-extracting your espresso. I mean, before the recession hit, I think they were planning to open a Starbucks in my dog's crate.

Not that I totally subscribe to the Starbucks as Evil Coffee Empire theory. I actually love the Pike Place Blend, even if it's roasted too dark to fully taste the beans that go into the coffee. But, really, who wants to be a corporate shill?

Not me, which is why I still like seeking out local coffee houses, though that's becoming harder since they're dying faster than daily newspapers and independent bookstores. But this weekend, I tripped upon Shagga Coffee and Restaurant in Hyattsville, which peddles a concise menu of Ethiopian dishes and sells dark, sweet cups of Harrar coffee. (Incidentally, Todd Kliman over at the Washingtonian reports that Shagga, which sounds like Austin Powers' favorite coffee shop, should actually be spelled Shegga, which apparently means "good" or "beautiful" in Amharic. Stupid sign makers.)

Anyway, I got to talking with one of the owners, Kelem Lemu, and she said that Caffe Pronto, the Annapolis-based company, creates a special roast for Shagga. It starts with Harrar beans, dry-processed and medium roasted, which produces a cup of coffee that's unbelievably fruity on the palate and floral on the aftertaste. These characteristics might turn off suburban Joe slurper accustomed to Starbucks' heavy hand on the roaster, but they are perfectly balanced by the coffee's natural acidity, making for one fine cup of java. Better yet, Shagga sells 12-ounce bags of its custom-made "Ethiopian Horse Harrar" for a little more than $10 a pop.

So why "Horse Harrar"?

The folks at Shagga had no idea.

Shagga Coffee and Restaurant, 6040 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville, (240) 296-3030.

  • Dan Riley

    Gotta be a typo...maybe "house"?

  • Nick Cho

    "MAO Horse" is the name of the export company in Ethiopia who mills and sells this coffee (MAO is the initials of the late patriarch of the family, Mohammed Abdullah Ogsadey).

    They're a fairly well-known (at least in the industry) brand of Harar coffee, and of good quality for a type of coffee that often gets funky and out-of-control.

    I guess they liked horses. Horses are prized in Ethiopia.

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  • Ali

    He liked horses and its not a typo. His logo is a horse. He was an ethnic Somali Ethiopian and he was the first company/man to export Ethiopian coffee.