If you have been following my blog for any time at all, you would know two things. The first being that I really enjoy the offerings I’ve been able to try from Populace Coffee; be it in Mistobox, Craft Coffee, from my local shop, or the sample tube that we are wrapping up today. The second of which being that I’ve had quite a few remarkable washed Ethiopian offerings come through the past few weeks. When you put those two things together you have either a recipe for disaster, or a recipe for success. Before diving in, I want to say another thank you to Andrew at Populace for allowing me to spend some time with some of his new offerings, and I look forward to the future of Populace. That being said, let’s see what Ethiopia Aricha has to offer.
Aricha is located 8km North West of Yirgacheffe. This is a new washing station Cafe Imports is working with this year. One of the great things about Ethiopian coffees is the complete mix of varietals. It is estimated that somewhere between six thousand and ten thousand varietals exist naturally in these highlands, the origin of coffee.
This coffee comes from a mill in the Gedeo Zone, west of the town of Yirgacheffe. The mill is called Kerbal Aricha and is owned by Surafel Birhanu, and is supplied by around 650 - 750 small holder farmers (mainly garden growers), who produce around 5 containers of specialty coffee a year, and around 10 commercial grade. The varietals are anyone’s guess, but seem to be mainly made up from Typica and various other heirloom varietals. This is what you get in Ethiopia: lots of small growers with lots of different mutations and variations of plants, and little interest in separating and finding out what’s what.
Ripe cherries are delivered to the mill where here they are graded, sorted, de-pulped, and then fermented underwater for between 36 and 48 hours, depending on temperature and other factors. Parchment is then sorted in washing channels, and then placed onto raised African drying tables. The drying period generally lasts for up to 2-3 weeks, until the moisture level reaches 12% or lower. The beans are then transported in parchment to the ECX warehouse in Awassa, then dry-milled to remove the parchment prior to shipping.
Roaster: Populace Coffee
Region: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo Zone, Ethiopia
Farm: Small Holders
Process: Fully Washed and Sundried on Raised Beds
Varietal: Various Ethiopian Heirloom Varietals
Elevation: 1,800 - 2,000m
Aeropress (Inverted) | 17g © to 240g (w) | 2:00 then plunge by 2:30 total time | 199 degrees | 1.33 TDS | 19.90% Ext. (Immersion mode)
Heavily floral aroma. Sweet, fruity.
The cup almost exists as a pure bouquet of flowers in the initial moments. Soft, silky, beautiful and lingering floral notes. Quite possibly a squeeze of lime in the finish to layer an acidity focus. It’s quite tranquil- violet, jasmine, hibiscus, lilac, honeysuckle, lemongrass, nods to a soft yet complex herbal and fruit mixture the more the cup opens, highlighting some peach tones, cantaloupe, lychee, plum, maple syrup, praline, strawberry short cake, and Caramel Creams (Bull’s Eyes). It’s rich yet soft, incredibly complex, lingering and insatiably delicious.
It’s juicy, but immensely silky. Probably the most silky coffee I’ve had in recent memory. In that incredibly soft detail though, are some of the most pronounced and voluptuous floral notes I’ve ever encountered. While there are sweet fruit notes added, they aren’t overly sugary so the cup still is balanced but with more of an emphasis on the florals. If you know me, you know that I am absolutely enamored by this coffee right now, and I feel like I’m grasping at straws trying to describe it to you.
As it gets cooler the finish introduces a slightly drying mouthfeel as notes of tea leaves come into play- still not necessarily distracting from it’s lively floral introduction, juicy fruit splashes in the body, and lingering lavender-limeade notes, a sweet, bright, and euphoric finish. Nirvana.
Bonmac | 14g © to 231g (w) | 2:15 total time | 197 degrees | 1.29 TDS | 19.80% Ext.
The aroma is pure gesha. lemongrass, rose, soft, and even find hints of warm berries.
First sips are luscious, while delicate and intense floral notes equally greet you to the cup. Florals for days with a medium to light syrupy body, light lemon and even orange brightness, and lingering floral finish. Beautiful.
It’s really hard to believe this isn’t a gesha. Reminds me of Acatenango, Guatemala I had last year.
Lime, lingering florals, lemongrass, lychee, raspberry, apricot, peach, grape, maybe even blueberry or strawberry there? Also has a bit of spice I catch towards the end of the sips.
It’s silky but incredibly alive with a deep, complex, yet delicate and juicy finish.
As it cools, honey sweetness begins to be highlighted a bit more, also with a slightly whipped cream or whipped chocolate note to the finish. Still complex, completely balanced, and has a deliciously haunting lingering finish.
Chemex | 19.8g © to 320g (w) | 3:25 total time | 202 degrees | 1.32 TDS | 19.78% Ext.
Wow. This cup is the most intense out of the gate. It still packs a ton of beautiful floral notes, but it comes with this tongue coating sugary sweet, I guess you’d call it syrupy, body that fills up the mouth space with immensely pleasing flavor. Sweet, light to medium bodied, crisp acidity, lingering florals.
Cooling a bit you have this deliciously balanced lemon-lime, honey, and peachy middle that is just saturated with flavor. Crisp raspberry, peach, and even a bit of orange begins to emerge in the highs, honey coated lychee, passion fruit, cantaloupe, apricot, and strawberry take the mids while the the herbal and floral notes, similar to previous methods, linger in the cup for miles with a low lying strand of citrus hanging around.
The body is soft but dense, complex, and smooth as it moves around the mouth- almost buttery. It is the most intense of the three makes, but being almost three weeks off roast for this make is still incredibly vocal in it’s presentation.
Cooling further it transitions similar as the other methods- light and delicate, more condensed fruit flavors with florals and herbal notes entangled, honey and cream seeming to fill out the rear. Poetically sweet and wispy lingering, honey and lavender with a comfortably bright lemon-lime meets orange brightness.
Such. A. Good. Coffee.
I feel like I have said this about every new washed Ethiopian offering lately, but this coffee is absolutely spectacular. I just can’t shut up about it, and yet I feel like I have no idea how to clearly express to you verbally how much I enjoyed this coffee. First off it’s one of, if not the, most floral coffees I’ve ever experienced. While I don’t have the Acatenango Gesha here to compare it too, I’ll have it in soon and might just have to order more of this Aricha because 1) it’s insanely good, and 2) so I actually can compare the two. I felt that this coffee played similarly in all the brewing devices and didn’t stray from its incredibly sexy profile. Where I recently said that Chelelektu was probably my favorite Yirgacheffe offering, this one carried similar properties that the Chelelektu did on my favorite makes of it, only the Aricha produced them every cup.
Either way, this coffee is delicate, quietly complex, and packs immensely beautiful and breathy aromatics and floral notes in the cup, seductive and lingering. It also has perfectly balanced fruit notes throughout, alluring, silky, and mesmerizing. All this, too, while not at the expense of losing roast development. The coffee was still saturated with flavor, pushed beyond a lemon-tea acidity and body, and carried wonderful sweetness.
As I continue to drink these washed Ethiopian offerings (where each one seems to only get better than the one I had before it,) it makes it hard not to be completely enthralled with the region. This is one of my favorite coffees I’ve had this year, and an exceptional offering to close out these samples from Populace Coffee.
Co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast and always has all the chocolate. I also love to play board games. Yea, let's go do that right now.