Monthly Archives: December 2010

Andy, Ethiopia, and Traceability…Part Three…

| December 15, 2010

My friend, his team, and I have now traveled south. We are in a beautiful city called Hawassa which is just south of Sashamene in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. The drive from Addis Ababa south was quite the adventure. If you have not gone on a long drive in a thrid world country yet, let me be the first to tell you it’s a freaking blast! Leaving Addis by road is like stepping into a blender of exhaust, stock animals, daredevil drivers, dogs, pot holes, bikes, three-wheel scooters, motorcycles, semi trucks, horses and buggys, and people streaking across the road (occasionally without clothing). Now turn that blender on high and hold on…

I believe the team and I almost lost our lives 3 separate times, and then there’s the drivers. If our drivers had cat lives, they would be well into the negatives with the stunts they pull. But, don’t let my joke deter you, everyone should try a long drive in a third world country. It might just put hair on your chest or at least a lot of exhaust in your lungs. 


I believe a big thing we should all realize is taking daily risks like driving through the blender above is a part of everyday life here in Ethiopia. Picture our green coffee making a crazy four or five hour – if not longer -  drive through a roller coaster of variables. At any minute the semi truck carrying our container of coffee could go through a number of imaginable scenarios causing our coffee to be delayed or potencially destroyed. Could this scenario also affect cost or payment down the chain? Could it effect coffee quality? Could it affect the environment?  I don’t believe I’ve ever once had this thought until we were face to face with a coffee-weilding container truck playing chicken with us in our lane.

I am not in Ethiopia to discuss shipping green coffee containers or the wild roads of Addis. To be honest, it’s just hard not to throw another light onto how many people and variables that are involved from seed to cup, especially when you find yourself in the thick of it.

It all makes me realize there are many lives touched by coffee or that touch coffee everyday; and I would say that many who do the touching often get ignored. That thought alone is a big reason why Caffé Vita sent me to Hawassa. In more or less words (less since the project is not yet finished), I am here with a team to work on a project that can help give the farmers in Sidama and their co-ops an identity that is more accessible to the people at home. In hopes that the consumer (which includes everyone not growing the coffee) can better trace the supply chain to help us understand the roller coast of events that takes place from the ground to your lips. Tracing the supply chain can also help to better educate (again) the consumers by continually increasing the amount of sustainable buying practices and giving credit to the ones that are already on board. In a nutshell, traceability creates transparency in the supply chain and in return can create a higher selling price for the farmers who grow, harvest and process exceptional coffees by giving us all better access to who these people are.

So, now that I am off of my small soap box, it is time to head to the farms. I will be visiting two or three co-ops today, so the team and I can start laying down the ground work for the project.  I promise one thing, the first coffee tree I find will mostly likely get my arms rapped around it…

Stay tuned for more posts from Andy in Ethiopia…

Andy, Ethiopia, and Traceability…Part Two…

| December 13, 2010
Watching her roast the coffee right in the living room was immediately thrilling, but as soon as the green beans started to near the second crack and then make the journey late into it, my taste buds started screaming… I now understand why there is loads of sugar in many of the coffee shops of Addis.

Morning before the journey south: I awoke this morning to the sun just peaking over the hills of Addis, the prayers from the Orthadox Church next door echoing in the air, and the smoke of frankincense with another smell that was vaguely familiar wafting up through the corners of my door. In the days of no smoking in Seattle, one gets very confused when a wonderful smelling smoke is filling your room first thing in the morning. I followed the smoke down the stairs to our small living area and as soon I leaned into the room I quickly had to side step Marta, who was preparing a traditional coffee ceremony. I have heard of the traditional coffee ceremony in the states and now have seen it many times here in Addis, but at 6 a.m. in the morning!? You can imagine it put a huge smile on my face.

Stay tuned for more from Andy, from Ethiopia…

Introducing Blackbird Coffee – Roasted by Caffé Vita…

| December 13, 2010

We were very excited a couple months ago when the folks from Blackbird – located in Ballard and possibly the best mens clothing store in the Northwest – expressed interest in collaborating on a Blackbird Coffee for them to sell in their shop. After a few good cupping sessions with our green bean buyer Daniel, the Blackbird crew settled on a blend of seasonal coffees from South America and the Pacific Rim; medium roasted to create aromas of sweet vanilla and warm tobacco. Their Blackbird Coffee blend is available in a stunning black glass jar and a traditional bag. Check out their blog post for more details….