This is the first of two coffees in our newest line of coffees, dubbed, "Expensivest."
Imported through Royal Coffee, which they have to say about this beautiful coffee:
"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."