Aricha, then called Adorsi, is established
Located in prime coffee land (and less than 5 km from the town of Yirgacheffe), the washing station is in reach of several coffee-growing communities – Aricha, Reko, Gersi, Naga Singage, and Idido. Everything is perfect for coffee here – the farmer community is experienced, the soil is fertile, the mountains and forests provide the ideal microclimate – and yet the Aricha washing station was left to decay, never reaching even a fraction of its potential.
Enter Faysel Abdosh and Testi Coffee. Faysel comes from a family of coffee growers, and he knows what good coffee is. In fact, his first endeavor as a young man was finding good coffee and bringing it to coffee buyers in his native Harar region.
Recognizing the potential of the coffee-growing communities in the area and seeing the need for a high-quality washing station there, he did not hesitate when he heard the Aricha site was available for sale. Testi Coffee took over the site around 2018 and immediately got to work reviving the washing station – a formidable task.
The first year was tough, as much needed to be done, but all the arduous work has paid off. Aricha now ranks as one of Testi’s smoothest operating washing stations. The farming communities around the station no longer must travel far to sell their cherries and are quite happy to work with the Aricha washing station. While the washing station does not process each farmer’s lot separately, it does process each farming community’s lot separately. As a result, traceability extends a step further than the Aricha washing station and into the communities surrounding it.
Pretty much all the farmers in this area are from southern Ethiopia’s Gedeo ethnic group. They have lived in this area for as long as anyone can remember and have grown coffee here commercially since at least the 1920s. They are experienced farmers who usually farm on small, family-owned plots of land rarely exceeding two hectares in area. These “home gardens” are also home to staple crops and indigenous forest trees and experts believe they have helped preserve the region’s plant diversity. Gedeo farmers usually tend their fields with the help of their wives and children.
Faysel is a strong believer in working with farming communities and growing together. In Aricha, this has meant working with the regional government and getting electricity lines running to farmers’ homes. Testi Coffee has also invested in building a school for the community’s children in the area.
Around five hundred farmers from the vicinity regularly bring their cherries to the washing station. Testi would like to increase this to one thousand farmers and more. “We have a good relationship with our farmers,” says Faysel, as he explains how he wants the farmers to see the washing station as their own. Testi pays a premium to farmers who bring their cherries exclusively to the Aricha washing station.
In addition, the washing station shares profits with the farming community, providing an incentive to ever improve the quality of the coffee they bring to the washing station. Moreover, since each community’s lots are processed separately, profits find their way back to each community as well. In this way, the washing station hopes to encourage more farmers to bring their cherries here exclusively.
Testi Coffee is one of our long-term coffee partners. By working together on a day to day basis, we can deliver great Ethiopian coffee. Bishan Dimo and Mulish are among the Testi stations we source from, but now Aricha joins the ranks.
The ‘19 auction lots, several spot and back to back coffees prove that Aricha has great potential to fascinate coffee drinkers around the world.
The coffee processed at the Aricha washing station is typical Yirgacheffe coffee, meaning it is a mix of Kurume and Wolisho landraces and other disease-resistant cultivars. What gives Yirgacheffe coffee its unique taste is the high altitude which makes the trees work harder to produce fruit. As a result, Yirgacheffe coffees tend to have a fuller and more developed profile.
The washing station produces both washed and natural coffee and has recently begun processing small batches of anaerobic coffee as well. Considering the washing station was non-functional just a few short years ago, it has already come an exceptionally long way. Aricha is now a recognized hub for Yirgacheffe coffee and lots from Aricha have consistently ranked high in tastings and auctions.
However, never one to rest, Faysel and the Testi team are constantly striving for improvement. The next step is the installation of a five-ton Penagos machine that is more eco-friendly – using less water, producing less waste, and non-polluting for the river and the environment around the washing station. The machine should be operational for the coming harvest and Faysel is looking forward to offering up an even better coffee product for export.
There are many intricate details that make everything about coffee fascinating. Each detail is connected to another, forming an intriguing chain that affects the flavor of the bean in diverse ways. One of these details is altitude. As altitude increases, so does the time needed for the cherries to develop and ripen, and therefore, harvest time moves forward as you climb.
This is one of the reasons why the people at the Aricha washing station (Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia) process coffee from its surrounding communities as separate lots. For example, Gersi’s coffee comes in later in the harvest season.
Of course, another reason for this separate processing is that it helps keep the unique flavor of each community’s coffee intact. Unlike many washing stations in Ethiopia that combine the cherries from the communities in one vicinity into one lot, this makes the Aricha station unique as its coffee can be traced back to the exact community that grew and harvested the cherries.
For one, the above-mentioned altitude variation plays a role. Coffee from higher altitudes is smaller, denser, and more packed with flavor. Even if the landrace is the same. Other factors include soil types, variance in rainfall, temperature – you name it. And of course, this is Ethiopia – birthplace of coffee, home to many hundreds of different varietals. So, you might end up with several types of coffee growing in fields right next to each other. There is no way to know exactly what each smallholder is growing. Some might see that as a negative, but it is one of the main reasons Ethiopian coffees are so full of variety.
Read on to find out about each of these coffee microregions.
This is the community that gives the Aricha washing station its name. Sitting at an altitude of around 1900 m.a.s.l. Believe it or not, this is one of the lower altitudes in this group. Many of the farmers here have small plots of land, often as small as one hectare. They grow regional landraces that may include several disease resistant varietals developed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Center.
Reko is a community that lives up in the Reko mountain area in Yirgacheffe’s Kochere woreda (district). The altitude is higher here – ranging from 1950 to 2150 m.a.s.l. The varietals here are like the other communities – a mixture of Kurume, other regional landraces, and disease-resistant JARC varietals. However, as the microclimate and growing conditions here are different, expect a unique flavor profile.
The Gersi community lives at the highest altitude in this group – at over 2200 m.a.s.l. That is why the coffee from Gersi is the most flavor-packed from this washing station. It is also the community that picks its cherries late in the harvest season. Like other coffees in Yirgacheffe, the trees are a mix of regional landraces and other varietals. This higher altitude coffee tends to have more floral notes. Gersi is also the coffee the Testi team believe has the highest potential for higher-end premium lots.
This delightful coffee takes its name from the Naga Singage Mountain that sits near the Gersi kebele (neighborhood). An important landmark for the Gedeo community, this mountain is a traditional place of reconciliation and healing. Smallholders here live and work at altitudes between 1950 and 2150 m.a.s.l. Like Gersi, Naga Singage too is an excellent choice for higher-end premium lots, both washed and natural.
Aricha, then called Adorsi, is established
Testi Coffee takes over the Aricha washing station.
Coffees from Aricha make the Ethiopian Cup and rank among the top lots.