Ethiopia Aricha
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When it was decided that the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins were going to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, a Twitter follower of mine from Boston and I entered into a gentleman’s wager about the outcome, each of us, of course, cheering for our hometown teams.

We agreed that the loser would  buy the winner a coffee of the winner’s choice from the MistoBox website. Even before the opening faceoff of (what would be the final) game six, I decided on an Ethiopian coffee from Lone Pine.

A week later, I received a package in the mail. Thanks, Blackhawks.

Oh, and Bob. Thank you, too. Let’s do it again when the Cubs and Red Sox square off in the World Series.

Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping a cup of Ethiopia Aricha, from Lone Pine Coffee Roasters in Bend, Oregon. Feel free to pull up a chair.

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.

the basics:

origin: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia
farm: Aricha Washing Station
producer: smallholder farmers
elevation: 1900 – 2200 meters above sea level
cultivars: Typica, Heirloom
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
certifications: standard

the coffee:

Mmmmm…. The aroma coming off this Ethiopia Aricha is certainly enticing. Dare I say… Sexy? Yes. I do daresay. It is delicate and fragrant, but equally voluptuous and intense. Shy and forward at the same time; reserved, yet flirtatious.

It’s very floral-forward, with lively tropical fruits taking the backseat.  It seems like it should be the other way around, but that’s exactly how this aroma is playing out. Lilac, bergamot, and cherry blossom explode out of the cup, like a bomb going off in a garden. And these flower petals are pushed up on the fragrance of red berries, tropical fruits, and citrus.

The flavor starts off sweet and mellow, anchored by notes of cocoa nibs, cane sugar, lavender, pistachio, and a touch of earthiness. But there’s also a certain amount of lemony zest that tickles the palate, particularly the tip of the tongue.

As it cools, the liveliness that I expected to find after the aroma appears.  And there is plenty of liveliness. A lot of tropical fruits and sharp berries and bright floral features skip and jump and dance across the palate and each is slightly different than the one before it; this makes it difficult, as a reviewer, to tell you exactly what to expect while you’re drinking it and reading along. So, instead of a play-by-play, I’ll give you a recap of my tasting notes: strawberry, key lime pie, mango, dried banana chips, apricot, clementine, cherry lemonade, apricot, plum, watermelon, with hazelnut and jasmine in a tea-like finish of each sip.

Overall, the coffee lacks the clarity and a sharp acidity that I was hoping for, but it’s still an above average coffee.

Medium body; velvety mouthfeel; lime acidity; clean finish.

the bottom line:

Complex, dynamic coffees are always rewarding; coffees that you win as a prize in a bet are always rewarding. The Ethiopia Aricha, from Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, is very, very rewarding.

The Aricha is a very layered cup of coffee, never tasting the same from sip to sip, never being precisely the same brew twice. This coffee will keep you on your toes both in terms of keeping up with its profile and dialing it in from day to day. Simply adjusting your grind, simply adjusting your brew ratio, simply adjusting your… whatever; truthfully, the minutest of adjustments in your brewing will produce a radically different cup of coffee.

No worries, though—this isn’t, nor does it need to be, an intimidating coffee; for as complex and dynamic as it is, it’s also forgiving. While your cup from brew to brew may not perfectly match what the roastmaster at Lone Pine had in mind, but, more often than not, it’s still going to be a tasty cup.

Did you like this? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome here at the Table! Pull up a chair and speak your mind by entering a comment below. Also remember to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

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