Ethiopia Agaro Family
Coffees from Agaro are famous for their layered complex sweetness and delicate florals. Home to some of the most sought after coffees in Ethiopia, the Kata Muduga cooperative union makes all these coffees possible. Apart from the immense potential of these coffees, the timeline of which their harvest takes place makes these coffees a perfect early spring offering. Typically we’ll receive samples in early February from our friend Aleco at Red Fox. Once the pre-ship samples are approved and the coffees are booked, we can expect to see these coffees in our warehouse and roasted by late March or early April.
Last year was an exciting year for the Nano Challa station, as they launched their sibling mill, Nano Genji. We found coffees from Nano Genji to be dynamic and interesting, everything we’ve expected from the Agaro Family in the past The need for more processing capacity arose as Nano Challa's notoriety increased due to their high quality and significant payment premiums. Nano Genji opened up to ease operations, splitting the growing 630 members between the two stations. Nano Genji is equipped with a brand new Penagos mill, along with plenty of raised bed space to dry the coffee once it's been depulped (more info on processing can be found below). Agaro was once the focus of USAID'S Technoserve project, where they helped establish the Nano Challa station to fetch higher prices to improve the livelihood of farmers.
ETHIOPIAN COFFEE VARIETIES
Often the information that is put forth when talking about Ethiopian varieties is heirloom or landrace. This has been used as a catch-all in the specialty coffee industry for years, beginning around the time that coffees were separated into microlots. In Ethiopia, we see lot separation of all sorts, usually by processing and milling station, and we border into the hyper-specific with screen size and even single producer lots. Given the current state of the supply chain in Ethiopia, the information known about what specific varieties are grown on smallholder farms is next to none. Ethiopian varieties can be split into two distinctions, JARC (Jimma Agricultural Research Centre) varieties, and regional landrace. The JARC varieties were developed to be pest resistant and high yielding. The landrace varieties are the wild coffees that have been growing in Ethiopia since coffee was first harvested. These vary by region, adding to what we would call the terroir of a coffee-growing region. As the supply chain shifts in Ethiopia, the industry will begin to get a better understanding of landrace varieties.
WASHED PROCESSED COFFEES
The washed process begins with coffee cherries delivered to the washing station, both from the primary market or from farmers bringing their coffee directly to the mill. The cherries are inspected, and an initial quick round of hand sorting separates the defective coffees before placing them into the hopper. They are then funneled to the disc pulper, which removes the fruit from the seeds (beans). After that phase is done, the coffee is fermented under water for approximately 36 hours, with the water drained and refreshed once in that cycle. Then, the parchment is emptied into the washing channels, where it is agitated with rakes. During this step, the water is refreshed twice. Once the washing is complete, the coffee undergoes the traditional “double wash,” where it rests in the soaking tank for another 12 hours, before being taken to the raised drying tables for sun drying.
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER – Clever Dripper
20g Coffee : 300g Water 205°F
Drip at 3:00
Agaro Family stood out to us with its obvious stone fruit and chamomile flavors. Its sticky-sweet and floral qualities shone in immersion brews like the Clever Dripper. We liked this recipe for highlighting the deep apricot sweetness, texture, and the chamomile shows up in the aroma before lingering through the cup. If you grind too coarse, under-extract, this coffee tastes like an apricot liqueur and has woody qualities. If you grind too fine, over-extract, this coffee tastes like apricot and almond bitters.
ESPRESSO – Modbar EP
Brew Temp: 198°F, Line Pressure: ~3.5 bars, Max Pressure: 9 bars
Pressure Profile: 0 sec to 4 sec - line pressure, from 4 sec till done - 9 bars
20g in : ~45g out @ ~26s
We found Agaro Family to be an extremely versatile espresso. It’s sweetness and apricot note are persistent across a wide extraction range. This gives you the freedom to play with that in signature beverages or mocktails where you’ll find this coffee plays well as a whiskey or gin riff ingredient. As a straight espresso this tasted like apricot syrup, chamomile, and almond extract. If this shot pulls too quickly, under-extracts, it tastes a little boozy like an apricot liqueur and has an unpleasant raw wood flavor. If this shot pulls too long, over-extracts, it wasn’t too bad but had an aspirin-like note that makes the drink unpleasant in the finish.
Ethiopia Nano Genji #5
This coffee is from our friends at Red Fox Coffee Merchants. It’s our fourth year sourcing coffees from Western Ethiopia via Aleco and his team. We purchased two lots from Nano Genji this year, and #5 makes up our Agaro Family offering. We purchased thirty 60-kilo bags for $4.55/lb EX warehouse, approved from a pre-shipment sample (PSS). We cupped the PSS at an 87, and the arrival production roast at an 87.5 on the SCA scoresheet.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $0.95/lb when we purchased this coffee.
- The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as the final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage up front upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.