Onyx Coffee Lab

Ethiopia Mesfin Kitesa

Strawberry jam, panela, cocoa, floral.

Fruit and chocolate: what’s not to love?! Both are found in extreme amounts in this powerfully built coffee that features strawberry jam, panela, and cocoa with crème caramel and floral notes. Fantastic hot to cool and sporting syrupy, jammy mouthfeel, it’s the perfect coffee for cold days. Shines in all sorts of brew methods.

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Woditi Village
Family Hand Agro
Ethiopian Heirloom
Natural Process

Meet Family Hand Agro

Just at the end of the Ethiopian sourcing season, a friend came to Catalyst Coffee Consulting (now Catalyst Trade) with a coffee sample. Here’s what they had to say about it: “We should taste it, he said, and because Atrie Weno knows what he's talking about, we did. It was amazing. Pear, cascara, mango, and allspice wafted to us in the cup. Who grew this coffee? We asked. Mesfin Kitesa, he responded, and we purchased it just like that.” In turn, Onyx Coffee Lab did exactly the same thing.

Mesfin is Sidama and in fact worked for years with the Sidama Union. He has two washing stations in the beautiful Dale district of Sidama, but this coffee comes from the farm which he had the chance to invest in near Bonga, Keffa. (Kaffa refers to the area, Keffa to the people group, and since Catalyst Trade identifies their coffees for their representation of the people rather than the area, they call this one "Keffa."

Kaffa, Ethiopia

Some 460 km to the southwest of Addis Ababa, we find the Kaffa zone. Here wild Arabica coffee flourishes in the volcanic soils of the forest understory, high on the slopes of the surrounding mountains. Small wonder that the air is heavy with the scent of coffee flowers--like and yet not at all like jasmine and orange flowers.

Coffee’s origin is shrouded in mystery but is believed to have begun in Ethiopia. As the story goes, a drowsy goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats were perkier after nibbling on the coffee trees, and tried the cherry for himself. Caffeine was discovered, and coffee’s epic began.

The coffee-growing culture in Ethiopia is unique. More than half of the coffee is called ‘garden coffee’, because it’s grown in the yards of producers, not “farmed.,” and though there’s an overarching Ethiopian coffee characteristic (blueberries and lemon curd, many say), each region has its own unique flavor profile.

Springdale, AR

Onyx Coffee Lab

Lest the myth perpetuate that specialty coffee does not come from Arkansas, Onyx Coffee Lab is blowing that particular urban legend out of the water while creating a few of their own. Husband-wife owners Jon and Andrea Allen have rapidly taken the coffee world by storm with their combination of art and science.

The magic starts with sourcing, with countless small sample batches from coffee importers and with direct visits to farms around the world. "I know direct trade means a lot of different things to different people, but for us if we don’t put money in the producers hands we won’t call it direct trade," says Jon. Once found, the coffees are carefully roasted in twenty-pound or smaller batches, then shared with the three Onyx cafés and over 150 wholesale customers in thirty states.

Clearly Onyx Coffee Lab knows what they're doing: not only were they named Imbibe Magazine's 2016 Coffee Bar of the year, this northwest Arkansas matrix of coffee know-how routinely cleans house at the U.S. Coffee Championships; Andrea Allen placed second in the Barista Championship in 2017, 2018, and 2019 while Dylan Siemans won first in Brewer's Cup 2017 and 4th in the Barista category, 2019. Roaster Mark Michaelson took place first in the Roaster Championship, 2017 and 3rd in 2018. Already in 2019, Onyx has garnered a Good Food Award, was chosen by Architectural Digest as Arkansas' most beautiful coffee shop, and placed in 4 of the 5 categories at the U.S. Coffee Championships.

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