Asnakech is one of the most revolutionary figures in Ethiopian coffee today. And not just because she's the only woman mill owner and exporter. Native to the Amaro Mountain region, Asnakech returned in 2005 with ambitions to improve both the quality of Ethiopian coffee and the lives of those who grow it.
Ethiopia--birthplace of coffee--has what many consider the best coffee in the world, but it has not always been consistent as much of it is grown on small plots by family farmers. Asnakesh has taken on this task in a few ways:
- Implementing rigorous control systems and clear quality standards where few existed before.
- Working directly with small farmers to ensure sustainable, 100% organic practices. Her coffee, produced by villagers on small garden plots, is interplanted with food and other crops to create a biodiverse environment that eliminates the need for pesticides, produces better coffee, and provides the farmers with food and other sources of income.
- Using the proceeds from the premium prices she garners to improve the quality of life in the villages--with schools, clean water and access to medical care.
Asnakech only purchases coffee cherries at the height of their maturity. The coffee is scrupulously harvested, sorted and milled at her facilities, giving her total control over quality. She processes the coffee using both the "natural" (or "dry") method where the beans are dried inside the fruit. She also incorporates part of the wet method where the pulp is then removed and washed.
She uses raised beds to dry the coffee cherries which provide even aeration and a much cleaner coffee. After drying the cherries are sent to Amaro Gayo's "eco-friendly" pulping machine which uses far less water than most mills. As a final quality control steps, the coffee is hand sorted to remove any sub-standard beans.
The final product of all this attention to detail is a coffee with a lush blackberry and blueberry flavor, complex acidity, juicy red-wine body, and a bittersweet chocolate in the finish. It is quite different from its full-washed counterpart, Yirgacheffe, which is mu higher-toned and aromatic with pronounced floral and citrus notes.
Time to taste it
At Six Depot, we import and roast both Ethiopia Amaro Gayo and Yirgacheffe and marvel at their complexities and differences. We hope you try them both and let us know what you think. If you stop by the cafe, we can always do a pourover of each.
P.S. It's our dream to go to Ethiopia this winter to meet Asnakesh, work at her mill and explore al the amazing coffee and food in this beautiful country. Will keep you posted!