Ethiopia Aricha Misty Valley Natural
$17.50 – $92.00
This is a new crop natural from the Aricha station in Yirgacheffe, previously known as Misty Valley in coffee processing history and lore. You see, Misty Valley was one of the first high quality “grade one” naturals to appear on the scene over a decade ago. At the time, quality naturals outside of Yemen or Harrar–the birthplace of the “dry” or “natural” process, with its extremely dry climate and lack of water resources– were literally non-existent. Naturals were consumed throughout Ethiopia, but belonged to local coffee culture. Households would grow dry their own coffee, remove the cherry and parchment with mortar and pestle, roast it with sweetener and spices, and consume it themselves. And most naturals were what we might call leftovers. The best green coffee–especially that hailing from Yirgacheffe, the country’s “grand cru” region– was washed and milled for export.
Abdullah Bagersh changed all this at Misty Valley washing station, where he applied quality-focused protocols usually reserved for washed coffees (including raised-bed drying in thin layers) to his naturals. The result was a revelation–a very fruity and clean cup–that was not without controversy. (I can remember internet coffee discussion boards at the time, where some of the industry’s heavy hitters argued over the value of the results, and whether these fruity coffees were too fermented, or the result of heavy-handed process, rather than inherent quality.) From what I understand, Misty Valley station had to be sold a few years later after Ethiopia outlawed independent mills from purchasing and processing coffee outside of the nation’s commodity exchange. But the mill remained, and its legacy spread throughout the coffee producing world, for better and worse. (It would not be an exaggeration to say that most “specialty” naturals you can now find outside of Brazil–whether from Panama or Costa Rica, Honduras or even Colombia–owe their existence at some level to Misty Valley.
The mill has continued on in different iterations, and still produces coffees of the highest quality. This particular lot is the kind of natural that makes me smile. It is very fruity, but the fruits are not as intense as some of the naturals we encounter, and the overall profile is soft and clean. The florals are more rose-like than sharp. It’s the kind of natural you can drink all day long.
Location: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo, Misty Valley, Aricha Station
Elevation: 1900-2000 MASL
Varietal: indiginous varietals and selections
Process: dry processed on raised beds