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.
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, from Mountain Air Roasting in Asheville, North Carolina, courtesy of Craft Coffee. 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
process: fully washed, raised bed dried
method: Hario V60
grind: 17, Kalita Wave
coffee: 32 g
water: 500 mL
pour: 2:00 pour, 1:00 drop
This Ethiopia Aricha’s aroma is sweet, but delicate, nuanced, and intricate. Floral and perfumed, with notes of lavender and lilac, with just a touch of citrus and grape.
The first few sips of the cup immediately post-brew are so soft, so delicate, so silky. This is a very genteel coffee—one that is light-bodied, graceful, and perfumed. It’s so light-bodied, in fact, that it’s a little difficult to pinpoint what I taste; it doesn’t rest on the palate at all, and the finish is so clean and abrupt that the flavors are finished before my taste buds are done processing them. This Aricha is very floral and mildly sweet, with just a touch of citrus to give it a bit of a tart acidity.
As it cools off, the flavors and their intensity actually stay pretty consistent, but the coolness makes them much more decipherable. Zesty orange rind and tamarind prick the taste buds, but they are instantly relieved by the soothing flavors of lavender, lilac, honey, white grape, strawberry, star fruit, and plum. And I know those flavor notes make this coffee sound really bright and lively, but it’s not
Light body; silky mouthfeel; grape acidity; clean finish.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Mountain Air Roasting’s Ethiopia Aricha is a perfect example of delicate and beautiful a washed Ethiopian coffee can be.
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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.