Experimental lot of “Pile up” extended natural fermentation where heirloom varieties were piled up on the African beds and rolled in a plastic sheet for up to 72hrs. It results in a very sweet, jammy, tropical fruit-like cup.
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Why this coffee?
On a cupping table with 20 different coffees from Ethiopia, each of them with its own character and specific taste profile this lot was a standout. As a last cup on the table, it surprised us without arguing if this is the one we are taking. Its complex sweetness combined with aftertaste similarity to Kombucha, which reflects this coffee's specific extended fermentation, was the “Drop the mic” for us!
Yirgacheffe region is a small but well-known coffee region in Ethiopia due to its specific flavour resulting in fruity and floral taste notes in the cup. It is recognised as one of the key “birth regions” of coffee. Most of the coffee farmers are placed at around 2000+ meters above sea level, and varieties grown in them are mostly classified as Heirloom consisting of many local varieties.
Farms in Ethiopia are mostly classified as smallholder farms and are around 1 to 5 hectares in size. Usually, they look more like gardens than farms and coffee trees are grown together with other crops like - false banana and pulse crops of beans. In season one coffee tree provides approximately 5 kg of coffee cherries which are then gathered together and sold to washing stations where they are processed and dried for further consumption.
Beans used in this lot are classified as Heirloom which contains two locally selected sub-varieties 74110 and 74112. Both were developed in the 1970s at the Ethiopian Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC). The main aim in developing this selection was a problem with all origins faced - resisting the coffee berry disease. The two beginning digits of varieties classification number “74” represents the year 1974 in which they were selected.
It's well known that the first print of coffee three cultivation, growing and usage started in Ethiopia. Variety 74110 was selected from an original so-called “mother tree” in Ethiopia, Bishari village, Metu Province, Oromia region. After researching its resistance to coffee berry disease and overall yield, JARC released the variety in 1979.
In the same year, the variety 74112 was released and originated from the same forest as the variety 74110. Both varieties share the same similarities - relatively compact trees with small leaves and berries.
Harvesting and processing
In December when coffee cherries have reached their ripeness they are handpicked by Ethiopian smallholders in farms of the average size of 1.25 hectares. After the crops are harvested they are transported to Gotiti washing station where coffee cherries are hand sorted.
After that cherries are placed on plastic sheets on top of the raised coffee drying beds.
For this lot, cherries are moved up to 15-20 cm thick piles and then rolled up in the plastic. At this moment the extended fermentation (in this case also called “Pile up” fermentation) starts giving extra time for sugars to ferment inside them, enriching and intensive the potential flavours of beans. Fermentation takes up to 48-72 hours depending on the weather and temperature of the cherries. When the fermentation is finished the cherries are dried on beds for 10 days.
In the end, beans are sorted out of defects and later by size in the washing stations warehouse. Then coffee is stored for 1-2 months before it's delivered to customers in jute bags.