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 Shanta 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 of the highest quality. Washed lots at Testi Ayla are fermented slowly—36 to 48 hours–due to the low ambient temperatures in the region and the replenishment of cold groundwater throughout the process. Drying takes 10-12 days and wet parchment is often covered during the searingly-hot afternoon hours to protect it from cracking. Naturals here take even longer to dry, due to overnight low temperatures and humidity, which slow dehydration.
The result is a clean, strawberry-like cup with abundant complexity. It’s hard to find grade 1 naturals in Sidama, as the vast majority of the zone’s coffee tends to be washed, or sundried of a lower grade. Private processors like Testi Ayla are a thing to behold. It’s a tough business being a private processor in Sidama, as the sheer density of competition among washing stations tends to push cherry prices high throughout a single harvest, and privates often don’t have the backing of a larger union to secure financing, regulate cherry prices, or bring export costs down with centralized milling and marketing. Successful private washing stations like Testi Ayla, then, need to be not only standout quality processors to stay afloat; they must also be excellent business developers with connections and community standing, in order to continue winning the business of farmers and buyers alike, and stay afloat for the long term.
Green Analysis by Nate Lumpkin
This natural-processed coffee from Ethiopia comes to us with very high density, and water content and water activity somewhat below average. As is typical for high quality Ethiopian coffees, this coffee is well sorted into a small screen size. The majority of the coffee falls into size 15 and 16, with only small quantities falling outside of that. As a result, it should show consistent and even roasting, though its very high density may cause it to resist heat. Consider using a higher charge temperature or increased energy early in the roast.
Kurume is a regional landrace local to Yirgacheffe. This variety was identified by the Jimma Agricultural Research Center, and is known for its high annual yield and small cherries. The JARC, originally founded to select coffee trees with high disease and drought resistance, works to identify selections that grow best in their native environments, and show cup quality representative of their region. Kurume is one of these. (source)
Ikawa Analysis by Alex Taylor
As of September 2020 we are running all Crown Jewel Analysis roasts on a brand new Ikawa Pro V3, using the most recent app and firmware version on “closed loop” setting.
It’s been a minute since I’ve done any roasting on the Ikawa, so I didn’t try anything too wild and experimental this week. Fortunately for me, Chris has fine tuned a handful of profiles over the course of many many roasts, so all I really had to do was drop the coffee in and wait (both a luxury and somewhat unsettling, as someone who has only manually roasted before). Plus I was plenty excited for another opportunity to taste this next wave of natural Ethiopias (this coffee, along with CJO1379), so I was more than happy to handle these Ikawa roasts!
I used our standard sample roast profile for the first roast, and while the coffee didn’t seem to fight the profile too much (which I thought it might, being on the denser side and dry-processed), I was surprised at how late first crack came. I stood ready to log it in the app, waiting and waiting and waiting until finally, first crack came rolling along very late in the roast. Interestingly enough, this was not the case in my second roast, using our 7 minute, low airflow profile. Fortunately for me, both roasts cupped very well the next morning!
The faster roast yielded some darker fruit notes up front like blackberry, blueberry, currant, and black cherry, with a juicy lime acidity to boot, and waves of dark chocolate and compote sweetness rounding things out nicely at the end. This coffee left me craving a slice of blackberry pie! The second, longer roast had a lighter, gentler acidity that featured more red fruit notes such as strawberry, maraschino cherry, and cranberry, with a smooth and creamy body that, coupled with strong notes of vanilla and caramel, lent this coffee some serious milkshake vibes! I found it promising that the two roasts had such distinct flavour profiles and that both were so overwhelmingly positive! This leads me to believe you’ll be able to find the profile that fits your needs, whether that skews more towards blackberry pie or more towards a strawberry milkshake. Ok, now it’s clearly time for dessert!
You can download the profile to your Ikawa Pro app here:
Roast 1: Crown Standard SR 1.0
Roast 2: Crown 7m SR Low AF
Probatino Analysis by Chris Kornman
Casually chatting coffee with my colleague, coffee trader, and noted Natural Ethiopia lover Caitlin McCarthy-Garía, she mentioned this lovely and decadent offering as “one of my favorite Sidamas.” While we’d already featured a number of exciting, process driven, thoroughly unique Crown Jewels from Testi Trading Company’s washing station in Shante Wene, we decided one more “traditional” Sidama natural couldn’t hurt.
I’d cupped a sample roast of this coffee well in advance of roasting on the Probatino, fortunately, and had a minimum idea of what to expect. Yet with just 300g of green to roast, I’d only have one shot at a decent production-style profile, so I had to make it count.
Fortunately, the coffee took to the roaster easily, and I elected to be a little timid with the heat, ramping up the gas at smaller increments and slightly later than the profile design in order to extend Maillard reactions a little. No problems there, the roaster and coffee adjusted quickly to two steps up in heat and the delta leveled off nicely as color change began.
First crack was loud and boisterous, and I could tell (using Cropster’s new predictive technology and a bit of intuition) that the beans were about to race, so I dropped the gas quickly back to idle setting and let the coffee develop for about 80 seconds after crack in an attempt to get a nice, evenly developed final product.
On the cupping table, the coffee was lush and full bodied with lots of strawberry and chocolate cake notes. There’s a sweet banana flavor as well, unique to this lot, and I really found it intriguing how it expressed itself in harmony with the other, more berry-centric flavors.
Given another shot, I’d be interested to see a lighter profile to highlight some of the more delicate fruit tones for use as a pourover, but as is I’d expect this roast to perform nicely as a low-acidity drip offering, and would undoubtedly sing as an espresso shot.
Brew Analysis by Elise Becker
I love it when Ethiopian coffees are in season, and I love brewing them. For this delicious natural processed coffee, I decided to do three side-by-side pour-overs. I wanted to taste the difference between brewers, all other variables being the same for each brew. I chose to use our ceramic Beehouse, Fellow Stagg, and Phoenix C70 brewers, three different shapes, three chances for the coffee to shine.
I’ve been doing a lot of quick brews lately, but wanted to slow things down a bit and ensure I was really loading the cups with all the juicy, syrupy fruity goodness this coffee has to offer. I set our EK43S to 7, fired up our Fellow Stagg Kettles to 205F, and used a classic 1:16.
The Beehouse brew finished first, with the brew finishing at 3:06. The cup was loaded with juicy blackberry, tropical fruit such as mango, kiwi, and passionfruit, and a delicious toffee and dark chocolate finish.
The Stagg clocked in at 3:24, a little slower in the drawdown than I expected. The cup was exceptionally sweet and syrupy! Cherry candy sweetness and a kumquat acidity gave way to a creamy dulce de leche, and a nice chocolatey base was still present to round the flavor out.
The Phoenix C70 was my favorite of the three brews. At 3:35, it was the longest of the three brews, and also the juiciest. The thick filter cleaned up the cup, and all the berry notes popped. This cup was so juicy, running the fruity gamut from apple to dark cherry syrupy goodness, and a heavy, lingering berry finish.
All in all, this coffee performed deliciously across brewers. While the fruity characteristics certainly benefited from the sharp clarity provided by the C70, the deep, dark chocolate base notes were also consistent in each cup, and would likely lend themselves well to balancing this coffee brewed any which way, including as an espresso. Tasty and versatile!