As soon as you pass the city of Dilla, you’ll notice the road roughening. A bumpy A8-highway, that feels like a country-side mountain bike trail, takes you to the Aricha mountains. Then a curly rocky road leads you to the gate of Aricha washing station. The famous Naga Singage mountain looms over the station and the Wogida river creates a continuous serene rush of water, only interrupted by singing Gedeo women stirring parchment and coffee cherry.
If you’re looking for floral and complex-tasting Yirgacheffe’s, Aricha is the place. The recently revived washing station collects coffee cherries from Yirgacheffe’s most potent coffee forests. The washing station provides an income for surrounding communities. And coffee roasters find the finest natural and washed grade-1 Yirgacheffe’s on the market. But it wasn’t always like this.
The Aricha station, in the words of the current manager, was a dump. A neglected, abandoned, and the out-of-business station that did not process a single cherry for years on end. Grass covered the entire terrain and the buildings were in decay. The surrounding smallholders had to deliver their cherries to another washing station further up the road. A far from an ideal situation, since transport goes on foot or by mule. But just a few months before the harvest of 2018, the communities met with a new potential station owner. Faysel Yonis, the founder of coffee exporter Testi Coffee.
Faysel shared his plans to make Aricha a hub for quality Yiracheffe coffee. After the traditional coffee ceremony, the elders expressed their enthusiasm and gave their blessing. Faysel’s vision goes beyond coffee and business. Because besides reviving the station, Faysel started to work with the community to build an electricity-network for surrounding villages. Testi Coffee is also coordinating the construction of a school and plans to give families access to clean water.
Aricha experienced rapid developments and innovations in a short period. This is because Faysel appoints well-equipped managers to run operations before and during the harvest. Adham Yonis, the nephew of Faysel, is the manager of Aricha. He was born in Dire Dawa (Ethiopia) and raised in Texas (US). Adham also served in the US Army for eight years. After twenty years of living in the US, he returned to Ethiopia and joined the family’s coffee business in 2014. When you visit the washing station during harvest, Adham will introduce you to Yirgacheffe cuisine. You will then enjoy a tour of the station and see how cherries are processed during night-shifts.
Today Aricha is a Yirgacheffe coffee-hub. Testi Coffee estimates that one-thousand smallholders from different communities come to Aricha to sell their cherries. During collection, Adham marks the lots per community to ensure traceability. In the hills surrounding the station, you find four coffee communities; Aricha, Gersi, Idido, and Reko Onancho.
All four communities submitted micro-lots for the 2019’ Ethiopian Cup and ranked among the top-scoring coffees within the auction. Each farming family received a portion of the auction premium to improve their livelihoods. When you search for lots from Aricha, be sure to look for the community names as well.