Intro by Charlie Habegger
The climb from the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, through Shashamene and past Awasa is gradual, and coffee trees slowly increase in frequency, large, lanky, and dusty by the roadside, many so tall they lean on the roofs of houses for support. Coffees here are earlier than in the far south, delicate, and citric. Sidama has one of the most robust cooperative unions in the country with 53 member cooperatives, as well as a thriving industry of independent washing stations. Testi Ayla is one such independent, owned by Testi Coffee PLC and operated by Faysel Yonis.
The Testi Ayla washing station is located in Shenta Wene, a small community in eastern Sidama, close to the Harenna Forest preserve. The 1000 farmers delivering cherry to Testi Ayla average two hectares each in this area and some of the highest elevations in the whole of Sidama. There are three collection sites responsible for managing cherry delivery throughout the catchment area.
Testi Ayla processes equal volumes of both fully washed and natural coffees, and, especially in this case, has had success with micro-processing select volumes, drawing from some of the best fermentation knowledge in the coffee world today. This lot is a standard natural process with one minor but labor-intensive intervention: after sorting and floating, fresh coffee cherry is placed into a hermetic plastic liner (in this case, a fresh GrainPro bag) and tied shut, where it is allowed to speed-ripen for five full days prior to drying. This method, which Faysel calls the “winey” process due to the additional wine-like volatiles and acids present in the final cup, is an attempt to maximize the ripening of available sugars in the fruit for absorption to the seed inside. It is a constant chore of maintaining temperature stability so the extreme environment inside the bag doesn’t spoil the cherry, and as such often involves moving the bags in and out of direct sun around the clock. Once cured, the softened and fragrant coffee cherries are taken directly to raised beds under shade for a very gradual drying process of almost three weeks.
Oxygen-deprived, or “anaerobic” fermentation environments like the above have gained traction among processing wonks in coffee for the unique flavors and tanginess they can add, as well as creating wholly distinct flavors in the cup than those we’re used to. In this case, Testi Ayla has taken an exemplary natural Sidama coffee and added a definite bump of intensity to the fruit flavors, and concentration to the mouthfeel. The coffee is extra pulpy, syrupy, pineapple-sweet, and yes, red wine-like indeed. The extra work here has paid off for sure, not to mention the investment in shelf life: the extended drying time and vacuum seal on the green will keep these layers locked in for months beyond expected.
One clear advantage to being a private processing team like Testi Ayla is the ability to invest in breakthrough techniques. However, it is no guarantee that your coffee will be improved by lengthy interventions to processing simply because they’ve succeeded a handful of times elsewhere in the world. By doing so a processor risks not only the volume of coffee used, but the trust of hardworking farmers whose livelihoods depend on a successful fermentation. Additionally, the expense of isolating multiple nanolots of green coffee through overland transport, dry milling, sampling, contracting, vacuum-packing, and shipment, requires constant attention and extra hands, especially in Ethiopia where this kind of small-scale exporting is almost never done. Royal’s investment in promoting these coffees is a shared mission with Testi Ayla—that historic coffees are worth it.
Green Analysis by Chris Kornman
Nicely dried and small in size, this “winey” natural coffee comes to us with the usual excellent green coffee metrics, with the exception of a relatively moderate density, slightly lower than its companion lots. Like the Carbonic iteration, this green has an intense fruity aroma and the mixed whole-fruit drying method has left its mark on the coffee in the form of a slightly reddish hue.
The cultivar designated here as Kurume (“Kudhume” in Guji) is a well known landrace (that is a wild tree selected “traditionally” for cultivation by farmers, not researchers) in the Gedeo and Guji areas; it is compact with small fruits, and good yields.
Ikawa Analysis by Chris Kornman
We’ve updated our V2 Ikawa Pro machines with the latest Firmware version (24) and run on “closed loop” setting. Our roasters underwent full service in October of 2018 which included replacement heating elements and an updated PT 1000 temperature sensor, and were recalibrated in September 2019.
I honestly had very little idea what to expect with this coffee in the roaster. I took the time to roast the Sidama trio myself this week (as opposed to delegating to one of The Crown’s lab assistant baristas) so I could observe firsthand their behavior. The coffee, similarly to its companions, tended to reach first crack later than expected on all three profiles.
In terms of its sensory performance, I’m thoroughly unsurprised to find that the hot and fast “standard” sample roast (blue) was not the right choice for this coffee. Too much acidity, too little body, not enough sugar browning, and an imbalance marked the cup which was characterized by flavors of black licorice, some dried and or “funky” fruits, and spiced rum.
The gentler roasts performed better, and the Maillard +30 profile (red), which underperformed on both the Double Fermented and Carbonically Macerated iterations, really shone here on this “winey” natural. True to form, a distinct cabernet-like silky viscosity and flavor was accompanied by some pulpy fruits, berry candy, plum, and very pleasant milk chocolate finish.
The long, low-airflow profile (yellow) was extraordinarily juicy when hot, reminding me of a dessert wine or grape bubble gum, however it flattened out a bit as it cooled off and ended up being my second-favorite despite its strong start. I noted some pickled beets in the flavor profile, surely a divisive cupping note that some will relish and others revile.
Overall, this is a complex and unsubtle coffee with some unique roasting challenges that will offer the lover of high fruit and fantasy the type of coffee they’ll remember for years to come.
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Standard SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown Maillard +30 SR 1.0
Roast 3: Crown 7m SR Low AF
Roast Analysis by Alex Taylor
Three super fun coffees from Ethiopia in the Crown Jewel queue this week! It’s always exciting to see coffee’s arriving in vacuum packed bricks the size of a suitcase; you just know something good is gonna be in there!
Like the other coffees in this group, this one has high density and good looking prep, and the green coffee’s aroma was similar to that of the carbonic maceration coffee in this group. Time to see what this “winey” fermentation is all about! To try to capture as much of this coffee’s intensity as I could, I started with a slightly higher charge, and set my initial gas setting a tick higher. I was fortunate to be roasting for analysis with a full 6lb batch on our Diedrich this week, so I wasn’t overly concerned about the coffees flying off the handle, the way some of my roasts last week did on the Probatino. That being said, the Diedrich tends to hold on to whatever heat you feed it and refuse to let go, so I knew I’d have to start stepping off the gas a little on the early side (I really wish I would’ve followed my own advice here).
This was my first roast out of these three coffees (1372, 1373, 1374 – I roasted in reverse order for no real reason), and things started out uneventfully. The roast was at least relatively close to the general profile I chose to try to follow, but I wish I had paid a little closer attention to the way the RoR stayed fairly elevated throughout the roast. I had trouble slowing things down towards the end, and on top of that, this coffee cracked softly and late, so I was honestly a little thrown by this one. When things were said and done, I ended the roast in 9:42 at 403.9F, and the coffee was still cracking as it came out of the drum! I gave it 1:05 or 11.3% post-crack development. I didn’t really like the way the roast ended, but was still optimistic that the coffee would taste good the next day. (Also, this coffee was super chaffy, so be sure to keep everything clean and tidy when roasting this!)
Like CJO1373, this coffee was a real fruit bomb on the cupping table, but in a slightly less intense way. I found pleasant aromas of strawberry, raspberry, and caramel in the dry fragrance. As soon as I started tasting this coffee, I loved it. So many red fruits: strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, and watermelon sorbet! The cups were juicy and clean and left me wanting more, thanks to a cool and refreshing slightly minty finish! This coffee is a real winner for this heat wave we’re in the middle of right now!
Behmor Analysis by Evan Gilman
Unless otherwise noted, I follow a set standard of operations for all my Behmor roasts. Generally, I’ll use the 1lb setting, manual mode (P5), full power, and high drum speed until crack. Read my original post and stats here.
Like Alex, I started my roast of this coffee before the others, getting straight to the most unique of the three. I knew that this coffee had remarkably high density, a wider spread of screen sizes than the other two coffees this week, and would therefore need a little more push. The other part of this equation is that I know fruit dried coffees like this one tend to really take off through first crack, so I altered my roasting style to accommodate for that situation. A nice and even approach to first crack is what I shot for.
In order to accomplish this, I kept a very close watch (and a close ear) on the Behmor. With P5 (100% power) and manual roasting, I began to hear puffs at 8:30, but they were very sparse. Clearly a false start to first crack. At 10:15, I engaged P4 to ramp down the momentum into first crack, which started 45 seconds later at 11:00. This coffee gets quite smoky, so I opened the door at 11:30 and finished the roast with 1:05 development time at 12:05. Just like Alex’s roast, this coffee was still cracking loudly as I stopped the roast, and it really continued for some time!
This coffee gave me a first in the Behmor – tipping! I am not used to seeing roast defects coming out of the Behmor, so this was a good surprise. A few of the beans had the hallmark ‘burnt ends’ (sorry, BBQ fans) that are the sign of tipping. This means that the roast may have progressed too fast. Strange, because this roast was on the longer side for the Behmor (at least for my style) at 12:05. For all roasters out there, I would suggest a very gentle approach indeed. This coffee will keep all the thermal momentum you give it!
In the cup, this coffee was just incredibly unique. While you can see in Alex’s roast, a lot of bright berries came through, my roast exemplified the buttery caramel notes present in this coffee. I got plenty of sugary sweetness, a ripe (and clean) banana flavor, vanilla custard, and just a touch of huckleberry cobbler. This is a dessert coffee if I ever had one. Try pairing this with a banana cream pie with Nilla wafer crust, and you can be transported to a classic diner, the likes of which you haven’t seen since skipping curfew in high school. Sweet nostalgia!
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
Such fun coffees to brew this week! For both this coffee and CJO1373, I resurrected one of my old favorite brew experiments and varied the brew temperature by 20 degrees between brews, all other factors held constant. I brewed both on the Stagg brewer, and used a grind on the finer side of medium-fine. Both brews proceeded pretty typically, if not exceptionally; the cooler brew (at 185F) finished in 3:35 with a 1.66TDS and 23.26% extraction, and the hotter brew (at 205F) finished at 2:50 with a 1.68TDS and 23.27% extraction. This brew experiment always produces some fun results: nearly identical TDS and extractions here, despite the difference in brew temperature and a ~45 second difference in brew time! The proof is in the pudding, though, as the cups had two different flavor profiles.
The first cup (brewed with 185F water) tasted of watermelon, grapefruit, bubblegum, red grape, honey, and dark chocolate! Like summertime in a cup! The watermelon note in this cup is present throughout and drives the finish as well; watermelon has always been an odd tasting note in coffee for me, and still is. I don’t dislike it, it’s just weird to me that something hot can taste like watermelon! The second cup, brewed with hotter water, drew more stone fruit and melon notes into the picture, and dialed a lot of the red fruit notes back a little to orange and yellow. I found apricot, honeydew, lemon, juniper berry, brown sugar, vanilla, and milk chocolate. This cup also had a faint floral note on the finish that helped clean the palate and leave you wanting more. This is a real fun summer coffee that I don’t think you want to miss!