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. Standard washed lots at Testi Ayla are fermented under water, and by default quite slowly—36 to 48 hours–due to the low ambient temperatures in the region and the replenishment of cold groundwater throughout the process.
This lot, however, was fermented in two distinct steps. The first of which, known as “carbonic masceration”, is a unique whole-cherry curing process involving 24 hours in a sealed tank deprived of oxygen, which concentrates the sugars and develops the acids within each individual coffee cherry, essentially custom-curing each coffee seed in an enclosed bath of fruit jam. Once cured, the softened fruit flesh is depulped and fermented extensively as a washed coffee for another full 48 hours. After the second fermentation is complete, the parchment is washed clean and dried carefully on shaded raised beds for a full three weeks.
Oxygen-deprived, or “anaerobic” fermentation environments like the above have gained traction among processing wonks in coffee for the unique layers of sweetness and clarity 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 perfected a truly exemplary Sidama coffee with articulate tropical fruit sweetness and a seductive, floral-savory bouquet. 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
This is a masterpiece Sidama, a symphonic execution of processing, terrior, and genetics, pulling together the best qualities of an ideal washed Sidama coffee. As far as physical specs go, the coffee is quite small, mostly 15 and below with more than a quarter falling through the smallest standard screen. It is also exceedingly high in density. Moisture figures are rock solid.
The result of the tiny size and high density may be that the coffee responds slightly differently to heat application than similarly dense coffees of larger screen size. You may find that overall, the coffee is slower to absorb heat early in the roast, and conversely more likely to retain heat and sprint as the it approaches first crack.
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.
Approaching this lovely Sidama after a compelling and show-stopping manual sample roast, I had a lot of confidence that my Standard sample roast profile (blue) would be a good fit for the coffee. Out of a sense of completionism, I roasted the coffee to the other two recent profiles as well to check performance. While both of the shorter two profiles behaved more-or-less as expected in the roaster, I was surprised by the late crack on the low airflow profile (yellow).
Shockingly, the short roast was my least favorite of the three, and frankly all the Ikawa roasts performed a little lower than my original sample roast. This short roast seemed to overdevelop the coffee a bit, though plenty of excellent floral notes poked through and soft fruit notes anchored the cup, an underlying peppercorn spice and slightly singed floral tone distracted me a bit.
The Maillard +30 profile, with the longest development time after first crack, offered dark fruits and good sweetness but muted the acidity even further and had a distinct roasty note I didn’t appreciate in what was intended to be a sample roast.
Lastly, the low airflow profile, with its late crack, lent better clarity with distinct day lily, lavender, rose, and fresh basil notes accompanied by a lush blackberry and plum flavor. A very nice roast, overall.
I’d suggest that this coffee might be tempted to race late in the roast, and cutting off your profile a little short might prove beneficial if a light sample roast is what you’re seeking. Sugar browning seems to happen especially rapidly, and if you want to experience all the delicate floral flavors, better to err on the lighter side.
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
Deidrich IR-5 Analysis by Alex Taylor
Three super fun coffees from Ethiopia in the Crown Jewel queue this week! It’s always exciting to see coffees arriving in vacuum packed bricks the size of a suitcase; you just know something good is gonna be in there!
Nice, dense coffee here, with a pretty small spread as far as screen size goes. With the high density in mind, and really wanting to make the floral and fruity notes in this coffee pop, 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.
The roast was exactly where I wanted it through the first stage of the roast, and then kept up its momentum, just as I expected it to. (To be fair, this was my 3rd consecutive roast of a high density Ethiopia for analysis this week; I had slightly less success manipulating the first two roasts, but read about CJO1373 and CJO1374 for more on that.) Several small steps down on the gas helped slow the roast a little, and then I completely cut off the burner and let the coffee coast through the end. I finished the roast at 9:44 / 401.2F with 1:16 or 13% development time. Definitely do keep in mind that making roast adjustments with a coffee this dense is a lot like steering a boat; just do everything gradually and a little early and you’ll be fine (disclaimer, it’s been years since I steered a boat. This analogy might be inaccurate!).
On the cupping table, this coffee certainly did not disappoint! It had intensely floral aromatics, with lots of rose and chamomile. When hot, the cup was distinctly bright and crisp with notes of lime and peach throughout. As it began to cool, I tasted perfectly ripe green grape, and the milk chocolate sweetness began rolling in. This coffee, like other quality washed Ethiopias, took on a smooth, silky characteristic as it cooled as well, really rounding out the cup nicely. There was also a really fun black sesame note that I quite enjoyed. Be sure to have fresh bagels on hand when enjoying this coffee! I would venture to say this coffee is a little more complex than your average washed Ethiopia: more diversity in the floral notes, a little fruitier, and just more flavors in general! You won’t want to miss out on this one!
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.
This incredibly dense and small coffee comes to us amidst a torrent of other delicious Ethiopian coffees, but it still stands out. Aside from the notable green characteristics, this coffee is an absolute revelation on the palate. But first to the roasting.
I noticed the tiny screen size immediately upon opening up my sample, and knew that this would be an interesting coffee. It helped that Chris let me know beforehand that there was a really stunning coffee washed coffee that just came in – I made an educated guess that it might be this one, and it turns out I wasn’t mistaken.
Like Alex, I wanted to bring the heat to the beginning of the roast, and hit P5 for 100% power and manual roasting, and I kept this on all the way through the roast. Crack occurred about 30 seconds earlier than the other coffees in this group (CJO1373 and CJO1374) at 10:25, and I opened the door a bit later at 11:00. My final post crack development time was 55 seconds, as I really wanted to keep this coffee light and bright.
I was not disappointed in the results. This coffee is stunning, but I wouldn’t have known it from the fragrance and aroma. What started off as a mellow vanilla wafer and brown sugar aroma turned into huge peach and apricot flavors in the cup. Super clean and sweet, this coffee didn’t hold back floral notes, either. As Alex stated above, there are some really diverse florals here – not only did I get jasmine, but also lily, citrus blossom, and orange rose. This coffee is just phenomenal.
Brew Analysis by Alex Taylor
This is a really fun washed Ethiopia – it’s everything you would look for in this style, with a little flair on top! I really enjoyed tasting this coffee on the cupping table, so when it came time for brew analysis, I opted to try out two different brew recipes to see how the cup might differ at various brew strengths. For the sake of forcing a noticeable difference in strength, I brewed one cup at a 1:18 ratio and another at a 1:15 ratio. And to add another subtle layer of complexity, I brewed the 1:18 cup with a v60, and the 1:15 cup with a Stagg. I often find that I like using conical brewers with more floral, delicate brews, while flat bottom brewers like the Stagg produce some really delicious, punchy, sweet brews.
Delightfully, I was able to produce pretty much the exact results I was looking for. The v60 brew, at a 1:18 brew ratio, yielded a TDS of 1.35 and an extraction of 21.77%, while the Stagg brew, at 1:15, had a 1.61 TDS and 21.23% extraction; so, two very similar extractions at two significantly different brew strengths.
The v60 brew was, as expected, light, citrusy and very tea-like. I tasted lemon, lime, lilac, agave, raw sugar, and cocoa, with a hint of black peppercorn on the finish. The mouthfeel was super light and silky, but without compromising on the quality of the finish: cocoa for days! In the Stagg brew, I found more of the same citrus, but at higher intensity, coupled with juicy peach and rich, fresh honey. As the citrus notes gently faded, they gave way to notes of milk and dark chocolate, and the bright juicy peach note transformed into a sweeter flavor reminiscent of a peach gummy ring! After each sip, I knew I wanted either more of this coffee or a peach gummy ring, and I’m all out of peach gummy rings…