Buying from Ethiopia continues to be a challenge for roasters and importers. More often than not, they are forced to purchase their lots through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange—which is difficult if you require some traceability or back story with the coffees you want to purchase. You have to become a detective, scouring through pages and pages and pages of roaster and importer websites to find information about any given ECX coffee.
Well—not you, personally; that’s why you have me: Drew Moody—Coffee Detective.
What I do know is this coffee comes from a washing station in the Gedeo Zone, west of the town of Yirgacheffe in the Guji area. The mill is called Kerbal Aricha and is owned by Surafel Birhanu, and is supplied by around 650 to 750 smallholder farmers (mainly garden growers), who produce around five containers of specialty coffee per year, and around ten commercial grade.
The varietals are anyone’s guess, but seem to be mainly made up from Typica and various other Ethiopian heirloom varietals. This is what you get in Ethiopia: lots of small growers with lots of different mutations and variations of plants, and little interest in separating them and figuring out what they actually have on their hands.
Ripe cherries are delivered to the mill where they are graded, sorted, de-pulped, and then fermented underwater between 36-48 hours, depending on temperature, humidity, and other factors. Parchment is then sorted in washing channels and dried on raised beds. The drying period generally lasts for up to two to three weeks, until moisture level reaches 12% or lower. The beans are then transported in parchment to the ECX warehouse in Awassa, then dry-milled to remove the parchment prior to shipping.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ethiopia Aricha Natural, from Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Kerbal Aricha mill
producer: smallholder farmers
association: Ethiopia Commodity Exchange
elevation: 1800 – 2000 meters above sea level
cultivars: Ethiopia Heirloom
The aroma coming off of this Aricha is fantastic – powerful, pungent scents of caramel, apples, violet, raisin, and cane sugar come booming out of the cup and completely fill the kitchen, completely taking over my nose.
Diving into my first few sips immediately post-brew and, I have to say, I’m surprised at how taken I am with this coffee. I honestly didn’t expect to be impressed by it, let alone wowed by it. This Aricha has a rich and full-bodied profile that completely envelops the palate with thick, creamy flavors of butterscotch and vanilla cake batter, with just a dash of brown sugar and cashew showing up in the finish of each sip. Already, as well, there’s a burgeoning black cherry juiciness that’s just waiting to explode over the tongue.
And then it does. And when it does, it brings with it a rush of luscious, juicy black cherry, pomegranate, cantaloupe, strawberry, plum, apple, red grape, and a bittersweet blood orange acidity that washes the palate clean to reveal a finish of roasted cocoa nibs and buttered croissant.
Full body; buttery mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
If you’ve been a dedicated reader of the Table for the past few years, you know that I have had a very tumultuous relationship with Bow Truss Coffee Roasters. I have yet to have a coffee from them that I liked, so you can imagine how incredulous I was when a friend of mine told me “Bow Truss has a coffee that I think you’ll really like.”
Today I’m happy to report to you that, along with their Ethiopia Aricha Natural, I’m eating a slice of humble pie.
This is the first coffee from Bow Truss that I was impressed with; coincidentally, it’s the lightest roast profile they’ve ever used on a coffee. And I’m glad, because the Aricha is a coffee that demands a lighter profile – it is far too nuanced, far too complex, far too dynamic, and, frankly, far too expensive to be roasted into oblivion. Now, of course, the natural version of the coffee is a much different creature than its washed predecessors – it’s much fuller bodied, more robustly flavored, more intense, more bawdy; and Bow Truss handled it really well. To be sure, there was a hint of that signature thing that makes Bow Truss’s style their own that I can’t really put my finger on, but it didn’t take over the coffee like it has in my past experiences with them.
This coffee has traditionally been a favorite here at the Table, garnering rave reviews from me each of the (now) four times I’ve had it – it’s an incredible coffee. I’m so happy that Bow Truss did it justice.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.