Ethiopia – Yirgacheffe Adorsi (Aricha) Natural
Washing Station: Faysel A. Yonis (Testi Coffee)
Varietal(s): Mostly Kurume
Processing: Natural process & dried on raised beds
Altitude: 1,950 to 2,150 metres above sea level
Town: Aricha Kebele
Region: Southern Nations, Gedeo, Yirgacheffe
This exceptional lot was processed, dry milled and exported by our good friends at Testi Coffee, a family-run business owned and managed by the Yonis family, who are making a name for themselves on the Ethiopian Specialty Coffee scene. For many years (see below on the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange - ECX), it was unable to secure good traceability information on many of our Ethiopian lots. As of 2017, all this changed, and we are very happy to highlight the great work that these valued partners are doing at origin.
There are only handful of Washing Stations near the kebele (town/sub district) of Aricha. Testi has recently refurbished and is operating one of them. The washing station produces both Fully washed and Sun-dried Natural specialty coffees.
The first person in the Yonis family to get seriously involved with coffee was Faysel A. Yonis. Faysel began working with coffee in the late 1990s, but at the time he was purely involved in supplying the local market. As the potential for specialty coffee in the country increased, Faysel saw opportunity. Even though he was still constrained by the ECX, he had a feeling that things would change. Faysel established Testi Coffee in 2009 as a coffee exporting company, set about surrounding himself with exceptional coffee professionals, and hired his nephew, Adham, raised and educated in the USA, to help with outreach and marketing.
Testi works with small holder farmers, with the aim of securing the very best prices for their coffee so that they can pay fair prices for the cherry delivered. They have also recently established a 250 hectare farm in the Bench Maji Zone, where they plan to experiment with organic practices. They are currently also building a warehouse in Shakiso where they can process natural coffees locally, in the region where the coffee is grown. This keeps more revenue in the communities where the coffees are produced.
Adorsi Coffee Washing Station
Adorsi Washing Station in its current iteration was established by Faysel in 2017-18, lies at 1,950 to 2,050 metres above sea level and produces amazing Natural and Washed lots.
In addition to 27 fermentation and soaking tanks, the site will eventually have over 300 raised ‘African’ drying beds.This means significant processing capacity and more access to the specialty market for the over 700 smallholder
farmers delivering from the surrounding towns of Aricha, Edido and Gersi. These micro regions are well-known for producing exceptional specialty coffees due to high altitudes and cool climates.
Smallholder farmers deliver either directly to the washing station or to various collection points near their homes. To be accepted, the delivered cherry must be selectively hand harvested, with few to any underripes or damaged cherries. Cherry is then delivered to the washing station, where it is processed. Natural lots, such as this one, are floated first before being delivered to the ‘skin’ drying (pre-drying) tables under shade for around 3-5 hours. The parchment will then be moved to the normal drying tables, where it will be regularly sorted, raked and covered during the hottest part of the day for 15-28 days depending on weather.
Varieties of coffee grown here are traditionally referred to as ‘heirloom’ by exporters – a catchall terminology whichoften masks the wide assortment of varieties that may be present within various regions...even, within farms. Many ofthese varieties will have been developed by Ethiopia’s Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC), which, since the late 1960s, has worked to develop resistant and tasty varieties for the Ethiopian coffee industry and also to provide the agricultural extension training needed to cultivate them. The dual factors of Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) forced anonymisation of lots (see below) combined with the relatively low awareness of formal variety names outside Ethiopia has meant that the JARC’s work has historically been under-recognised by specialty importers and roasters, but a new book issued by Counter Culture Coffee in the USA (2018/19) has drawn new attention to the topic, and rightly so.
It is important to note that varieties in Ethiopia fall within two main groups – regional or local landraces (of which there are at least 130, 33 of which would hail from the Southern growing regions) or JARC varieties. The farmers delivering to Adorsi Washing Station have a high concentration of Kurume trees on their small farms. Kurume is a local landrace indigenous to the region characterised by smaller beans and a very sweet, aromatic cup.
It is still very hard to tell but it is highly likely that this lot also contains some JARC 740110 and 74112 varieties, developed in 1974 by the JARC, which are directly descended from local landraces indigenous to the region. Most farmers across Ethiopia will have a mix of both the improved and the indigenous landrace varieties (inherited fromparents and grandparents) on their farms, though research by Counter Culture’s Getu Bekele does show that there is astrong concentration of the JARC ’74 varieties in the South.
Our recognition of these processes as an industry, admittedly, lags behind. Though the arguments made by Getu Bekele are correct and salient, it remains difficult to get information from mills and exporters regarding the exact varieties that go into various lots. we will continue to work with our partners in Ethiopia on this important issue, and we hope that in coming year we will be able to provide more detailed information on the distinct varieties being grown by the farmers contributing to our Ethiopian lots.
More about Testi:
Testi’s objective is quality and building long-term business relationships. Their washing stations are very well run and they do diligent work through sorting and screening to get clean and quality beans for export. Testi always adheres to the very highest quality standards to prepare and deliver nothing but high quality beans.
As of 2018, Testi has launched a quality improvement project at each of the four washing stations that they operate. Their PCS (Premium Cherry Selection) Project fully controls all aspects of harvest and processing in order to ensure that the fantastic natural quality of the coffee is maintained at each step. They are also making the most of the market liberalisation to benefit the small producers that they work with. Social projects, such as building new classrooms for
the local school near their Guji processing factory are also important, and with support from their importing partners (watch this space) they hope to do even more in the future. They also currently have a drinking/household water provisioning project underway in Guji, and they plan to extend this to other communities in the future.
Testi believes that education has an immediate impact on the sustainability of coffee in the region. As such, they have recently begun construction of a primary school in Aricha (their second large-scale education project). The project is part of Testi Project Direct, which also supplies the students with yearly school supplies, taking some of the burden off of parents so they can use the money they get from red cherries for other things besides school supplies.
The name ‘Testi’ means Happy or Happiness in Harrari language (it is also the name of Faysel’s middle son). Certainly Testi is bringing happiness to small scale producers and roasters alike!
About the Yirgacheffe region
Yirgacheffe is actually part of the Sidamo region in southern Ethiopia, but its exquisite washed coffees are so well- known that is has been sub-divided into its own micro-region. This steep, green area is both fertile and high – much of the coffee grows at 2,000m and above.
At first glance Yirgacheffe’s hills look thickly forested - but in fact it is a heavily populated region and the hills aredotted with many dwellings and villages’ growing what is known as ‘garden coffee’. There are approximately 26 cooperatives in the region, representing some 43,794 farmers and around 62,004 hectares of garden coffee. The production is predominantly washed, although a smaller amount of sundried coffees also come out of Yirgacheffe.
Around 85 percent of Ethiopians still live rurally and make a living from agriculture; each family usually lives in a modest home (often a single round mud hut) and farms their own plot of land, where they grow both cash crops and food for their own consumption. In Yirgacheffe, coffee is one of the main cash crops – covering from half a hectare to 1.5 hectares (the latter is considered big). This is usually planted alongside a second cash crop – often a large-leafed tree used in making roofs for (and also shade provider for the coffee) known as 'false banana'. This looks like a banana tree but isn't - instead its thick stem is used to produce both a nutritious flour and a fermented paste that are staple ingredients (particularly across southern Ethiopia).
There is only one main harvest a year in Ethiopia - this usually takes place in November and December across all of the country's growing regions. There are, on average, 4 passes made during the harvest period, and, in regions that produce both washed and naturals, the last pass is used for the natural coffee. Washed coffees are then generally pulped on the same day that they are picked (usually in the evening/night), sorted into three grades by weight (heavy, medium and floaters), fermented (times vary - usually between 16 and 48 hours), washed and then usually graded again in the washing channels. The beans are then dried on African beds, where they are hand-sorted, usually by women.
About the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and Traceability:
For many years, Ethiopian coffee, some of the best in the world, was for the most part untraceable.
Starting in 2008, Ethiopia began the centralization of all coffee exports through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), where the coffees were ‘anonymised’, stripped of any information other than region, in the interest of thefarmers, who were meant to receive top dollar for quality regardless of the ‘name’ of the washing station or farm.
Coffees moving through the ECX were (still are) delivered to certified coffee labs, where they were cupped according to profile then graded and marked generically for export. This ‘equalising’ measure certainly benefitted some producers, but it had the negative impact of eliminating most roasters’ and importers’ ability to provide accurate information of the precise traceability of coffees. Even after the opening of the ‘second window’ (devised for directsales of cooperative and certified coffee), as of the end of 2017 some 90 percent of coffees still moved through the ECX.
The end of March 2017 saw a huge overturning of this mandatory system. In a bill raised by the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Development and Marketing Authority, Ethiopian coffee (even that sold through the ECX) can be marketed and sold with full traceability intact. The aim is to limit black market dealings, to demand higher prices and to enable Ethiopian producers to share in a greater piece of the pie.
In a bit more detail, the new system proposes that any exporter with a valid license will be allowed to sell directly to buyers without placing the coffee on the ECX first. There is a slight caveat – the parchment coffee will have to be sold within three days of arriving at the processing plant in Addis. If it is still unsold after three days (which is quite likely), it must be sold through the ECX: BUT with its traceability info intact rather than being deleted.
NOTES: Strawberry, Blueberry & Floral