Daily Archives: December 10, 2013

From the Road : Ethiopia

| December 10, 2013

 

1

Every trip to this incredible land deepens our appreciation for coffee. It permeates the fabric of society and touches the hands of so many, treated with respect and admiration. In no other country can one pull over to the side of the road, just about anywhere, to a tantalizing ‘jebena bunna’ – traditional cup of coffee. Freshly roasted and prepared with pride, the cup reflects whatever region you are in.  The top three so far:

Kulubi, East Harar

Kulubi, East Harar

Yirgacheffe

Yaayoo

Yaayoo

We began in the east, Harar, home to the fabled sun-dried (natural) coffee that can smell of blueberries and exotic spices.  The landscape was awe inspiring and we witnessed fascinating farms with sophisticated terracing and irrigation.  Harar remains a challenging region to source coffee from, due to the decreasing land utilized for coffee, the convuluted system of trade, and lack of cooperatives.  Some feel this coffee could be headed towards extinction.

Coffee farmer in East Harar

Coffee farmer in East Harar

Member of Wotono Bultuma Cooperative, Sidamo

Member of Wotono Bultuma Cooperative, Sidamo

The second leg of our journey took us south, to Sidamo and Yirgacheffe. Every five years or so there is an excessively wet year – this happens to be one.  The downpours were impressive, but have delayed the harvest and made drying the coffee a concern. Still, by all accounts most are anticipating a good year, both in quality and quantity. I was able to visit a number of groups that Vita has purchased from in the past few years: the Yirgacheffe Union cooperatives of Konga, Idido, Koke, and Bele Kara.  These are among the finest coffees in the world!

Waiting for the rain, Bele Kara Cooperative, Yirgacheffe

Waiting for the rain, Bele Kara Cooperative, Yirgacheffe

Coffee drying at Koke Cooperative, Yirgacheffe

Coffee drying at Koke Cooperative, Yirgacheffe

After Yirgacheffe, I set off to Amaro to visit Asnakech, the incredible woman behind the well known Amaro Gayo coffee.She welcomed me into her home where we prepared a tasty treat of freshly plucked Moringa leaves for dinner.  The next morning Asnakech showed me her plantation and processing center. The meticulous drying technique left me impressed.  Her attention to detail and dedication to quality have earned the respect of coffee professionals worldwide. A long ride back to Addis was followed by a day visiting friends and exporters before I set off for the final leg, way out west.

Asnakech inspects the drying coffee cherries

Asnakech inspects the drying coffee cherries

Zerihun, of Kundi Gagi

Zerihun, of Kundi Gagi

After another early morning departure and the long windy drive to Jimma, I met with the cooperative business advisor, Girma, who would accompany me to Illubabor.  Until recently, this part of Ethiopia was only known for low grade coffees, but in recent years a number of cooperatives have been established or revitalized through the assistance of Technoserve, an NGO aimed at increasing farmer’s capacity for doing business through improving quality and access to the marketplace.

Kundi Gagi leadership: Bifkadu, Ibrahim Hussein, and Zerihun

Kundi Gagi leadership: Bifkadu, Ibrahim Hussein, and Zerihun

Kundi Gagi is one such cooperative and in our evaluation of the region last year, their coffee was the finest.  We have purchased this coffee for two consecutive harvests and after my meeting with co-op leadership I feel confident our relationship will continue to grow.  Thanks to the premium Caffe Vita has paid for their coffee, the cooperative has paid off its loans and will be using profits to improve road access to the washing station and build a health center for the community. After this visit we are pleased to report that Kundi Gagi now qualifies as a Farm Direct coffee !

Cherry being delivered to Kitaber Cooperative

Cherry being delivered to Kitaber Cooperative

Though the harvest is just beginning throughout the country, I am already eager with excitement at the prospects of this upcoming crop.  We will be closely monitoring the coffee quality in the coming months and will be sure to bring you the finest Ethiopian coffee for 2014.  In the meantime, you can enjoy the current crop from Bele Kara and Kundi Gagi, both of which are available at our cafes and online.