Hambela Arifi – Sweet dried Apricots with black tea and crisp Bergamot zest
Producer: Hambela Arifi
Variety: Washed Burbon
Harvest: January 2020
Roaster: La Cabra
Date of Roast: 01.09.2020
An excellent showcase of the truly unique aroma profile to be found in the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia. With its clear and soft tea-like mouthfeel, its unique apricot aroma and crisp clear yet floral bergamot acidity it is surely one of our favourite cups this summer. A apricot bomb when brewed with pressure, a delicate floral cup as a pour over and a juicy and sweet iced tea when brewed as a cold brew. A wonderful example of diversity in terroir and varietals next to our PeaBerry from the neighbouring Country Kenya.
Coffee production in Ethiopia is distinct from most of the rest of the world, with very different coffee varieties grown in very different systems, even when compared to neighbouring countries like Kenya. Coffee still often grows semi-wild, and in some cases completely wild. Apart from some regions of neighbouring South Sudan, Ethiopia is the only country in which coffee is found growing in this way, and the level of genetic diversity is not seen anywhere else. This is what makes finding single varietal lots in Ethiopia so exciting. Another unique aspect of working as a coffee buyer in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, or ECX, founded in 2008 to protect all of Ethiopia’s (mainly agricultural) exports. From 2008, all coffee had to be exported through the ECX by law, which meant traceability was lost, and it was almost impossible to secure the same coffee every year. Of course those of us in the speciality industry pushed for change, and in 2017 the ECX announced wholesale change to the system. Among other initiatives, small to medium sized buyers like us were allowed to make agreements with privately owned washing stations outside the ECX auction system, in an attempt to create mutually beneficial relationships between progressive mills and buyers willing to pay a premium for the quality they deliver.
For these coffees La Cabra worked with Belgian-based coffee buyer Cup A Lot. They have been buying coffee from the Hambela Arifi station in the Guji zone for several years now, and have taken full advantage of the closer relationships allowed by the new system. The fertile soils of the Hambela Woreda, in the South-Western Guji zone, combine with ideal climate conditions and high altitude to create ideal conditions for producing high quality coffees. This is true of many stations in this part of the country, which also includes the famous town of Yirgacheffe, but the uncharted territory created by the new Ethiopian system requires mutual trust and goals in order to navigate effectively. For example, the mill owners recently discovered that several of the more than 5000 farmers delivering to the mill have trees that closely resemble modern Bourbon varietal plant stock, both physically and in the cup. Cup A Lot asked if they could purchase a separated lot consisting of coffee only from these farmers, if they were to offer a monetary bonus above what they normally pay. The managers at Hambela Arifi were happy to oblige, and we’re excited to have played our small part in the chain of these delicious coffees. This washed lot is a slightly rounder take on the classic washed Ethiopia profile, with bergamot florals followed by soft apricot, and a crisp tea-like finish.