This coffee comes to us by way of our friend and collaborator Michael Adinew. Michael is a pillar amongst green coffee, and has been partnering with select roasters in the US through his business as Cafe Hilm. Michael is the type of person that seemingly knows everyone within coffee, and no where is that truer than in Ethiopia. Now residing in California, Michael is from Ethiopia and maintains many connections with Ethiopian coffee. We routinely carve out some space to collaborate with him in our Ethiopian coffee program, and have never been disappointed with what we find together. This natural processed coffee from Testi Ayla maintains that high bar.
The Testi Ayla station is located in the village of Shantawene, close to the Harenna forest preserve. Over a thousand small-holder coffee producers deliver cherry to the Testi Ayla station, all of which are growing native coffee in the Bensa region. Operating an independent processing station creates many challenges within a highly competitive area like Sidama, but the owner and operator, Faysel Yonis has set up systems to maintain the loyalty of the members. Using business acumen and developing community projects that support the people in the area has been the key to Testi Ayla’s success. Another key to success has been their penchant for producing exceptionally high quality coffees, both their washed and natural processed lots. By maintaining their place in the community, they have a great pick of choice cherry when harvest time rolls around. Through this, they process each delivery immaculately, taking care of drying times when conditions can drastically shift from hot and dry to cold and humid. The business of Testi Ayla is a quality focused one, but not only by pushing coffee quality to the forefront, but by valuing the land, community, and the people who grow these coffees.
NATURALLY PROCESSED COFFEE
Natural coffees are beautiful… Okay, natural coffees are beautiful when done properly, but can be equally terrible when things go wrong. Natural processing, or dry processing, refers to the act of drying and fermenting coffee inside the cherry. Long before the age of portafilter tattoos and dual-boiler home espresso machines, coffee was picked and dried this way out of convenience. It is, to this day, still the most convenient and economically friendly way to process coffee cherries. (It’s estimated that dry-processing can use up to 90% less water than the washing process.) So why isn’t all coffee processed this way? Well, as coffee made its way across the world, it was commoditized and standardized, just like all other products spread by colonialism, but that’s a whole other story... Adding to the boom of washed processing, the natural process method can be tricky to get right, due to the delicate nature of fermentation and drying. What does all this have to do with the final cup? Well, when you leave the skin and fruit of the coffee cherry on the seed throughout fermentation and drying, that fruit begins to break down, imparting esters that influence delicate florals and big fruit notes into the seed that survive the roasting process. If it’s rushed or handled incorrectly, this fruit rot can lend off-flavors to the coffee, making the final cup dirty or ‘fermenty.’ Basically that single cherry begins to slowly decay, and controlling that delicate action through advanced technique and metrics allow us, lucky folks, to drink wonderfully floral and fruity coffees. We have long promoted natural processed coffees, and this Shantawene from Testi Alyai is just one of the reasons we do.