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, from Passion House 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
process: fully washed, patio dried
The aroma wafting up from the Ethiopia Aricha is absolutely enticing, coyly inviting me to dive into the coffee. Floral-forward scents of lilacs and black tea leaves are pushed up on a bed of dried berries and citrus.
I have to shake my head and tightly squeeze my eyes shut to break the spell of the aroma so that I can instead focus on the flavors splashing over my palate; not that I really need to, as its flavors are very prominent and intense. A thin, silky dark chocolate ganache sheen spreads over the tongue first, followed by hints of clove, a touch of moist earth, velvety violet petals, and flutter of lilacs that tickle the roof of the mouth and the back of the tongue.
As it cools, fleshy, juicy, and very lively fruits gush onto the palate, titillating and tantalizing the palate: black cherry, strawberry, cantaloupe, plum, pear, raising, kumquat, and zesty lemon make the taste buds stand at attention, while a sharp, tart pluot acidity streams down the center of the tongue and splashes into the back of the throat, clearing away the aforementioned fruit flavors and revealing an underbelly of Darjeeling tea leaves and hazelnut praline in the slightly dry finish of each sip.
Medium body; silky mouthfeel; plum acidity; slightly dry finish.
the bottom line:
2013 was the year of the baller Ethiopian coffee, and the Ethiopia Aricha was at the top of the heap. So, it came as no surprise to me that my good friends at Passion House Coffee Roasters took the Ethiopia Aricha to a whole nuva level.
This coffee’s profile felt reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s portraits of Marilyn Monroe – bright, vivacious, and lively meets voluptuous, beautiful, and classy. Its flavors were so intense, so distinct, so absolutely poppin’! A real beauty of a coffee that challenges the palate as much as it entices the palate.
The Ethiopia Aricha (whether from Passion House, Fratello, Lone Pine, or whomever) quickly became one of my favorite coffees of 2013 – I’m curious to see if I’ll feel the same way about it later in 2014.
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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.