Category Archives: source trips

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…

Andy, Ethiopia, and Traceability…

| December 8, 2010

Our lead trainer, Andy Kent, embarked last week on a grueling trip into the heart of East African coffee production. Ethiopia, specifically. Andy is working on a project aimed at increasing levels of traceability for coffee that leaves Ethiopia. We want to be able to bring you coffee that has transparency at all levels in ensuring a fair portion of the price we pay for the green coffee gets back to the actual farmer. Supporting Andy is a great way for us to do this and for Andy to gain valuable knowledge about many different Ethiopian coffees directly at the source. What follows is Andy’s first dispatch from Ethiopia. Stay tuned for further entries…

It has been a slow start getting to Ethiopia. It usually takes a few days, but with a snow storm in Europe causing flights to be delayed, a few days turns into many. Luckily the flights themselves were smooth and now I am here, Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I’ve now been in Addis for a few days. I am here with a good friend, to help him and his team work on a traceability project to help better source coffee and track coffee from the co-op in Ethiopia to you.  More importantly, I am in Ethiopia to learn, listen and taste, and if by chance my taste buds run into something amazing… well, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed.

Umbrellas serve a different purpose in Ethiopia…

For last few days the team and I have been running all over Addis collecting supplies, dealing with bureaucracy,  eating amazing foods (some more desirable and agreeable then others) and being stuck in
meetings… lots of meetings! Luckily the last meeting was the most interesting so far. We had a chance to meet with Tsegaye the President of Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union and Berhanu who is SCFCU’s certifications general manager. In the meeting we were able to receive Tsegaye’s permission and help to visit a few of the largest co-ops Fero and Homecho Waeno in Sidama.

L to R: Tsegaye and Berhanu    

So tomorrow is the day, we will be heading off to the farms to start implementing the traceability program. For me the thought of driving down through the Rift Valley to my first ever experience at a coffee farm excites me beyond belief.

More to come…


Sunrise in Sanur

| October 20, 2010
The day before the auction a group of international and local judges, including myself, were asked to cup the twenty-three coffees blindly and give them a score using a standardized cupping form. It was an ardous affair, with three rounds of cupping lasting through the morning and well into the afternoon. There was no way to distinguish which were the Luwak coffees, affirming that being passed through the digestive tract of a small mammal does not impart a distinct characteristic to coffee.

Despite being an auction supposedly representing the best of Indonesia, we encountered a number of defects; highlighting the difficulty of selecting and sorting out only the finest beans. Still, it was a joy to participate in this process as the coffees were very diverse and at times quite unique. Some were obviously from Java and others had that classic Sumatra profile, but there were many that defied categorization.

At the end of the day the scores were tallied and the identities of the coffees were revealed. Unfortunately, no entries from the islands of Sulawesi or Papua made it into the auction due to the time of harvest and difficulties shipping the coffee. Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Flores were all present and though many of them were quite good there weren’t any true standouts. It was a valuable experience however; as the feedback provided by the judges will help improve future coffee auctions in Indonesia.
On the day of the auction, a number of other buyers joined and all of the coffees were re-cupped with their identities and scores revealed. My favorites all hailed from Sumatra and seeing how Caffé Vita already has a stellar Sumatran coffee from Gayo, I participated rather passively throwing up my number occasionally to have a little fun. Not all of the coffees sold, but a few of the Luwak coffees fetched upwards of $70 per kilo.

When all was said and done, I headed to the beach and had a drink with a nice fellow from Rainforest Alliance, discussing the work they are aiming to accomplish with various certifications throughout Indonesia. That night I was able to dine with a number of producers from Indonesia including some partners in our Organic Sumatra Gayo River project. We called it an early night, as the next day promised an exciting voyage to the island of Flores…

Vita in Bali

| October 18, 2010

Much to my delight, Caffe Vita was invited to attend the first ever Indonesian Specialty Coffee Auction, which took place last week in Bali. Not quite knowing what to expect I made the journey half way around the world to see, smell, and taste what could be considered the finest from one of the largest producers of coffee in the world. Submissions throughout the archipelago had been collected, with only twenty-three coffees making the grade, of which seven were small lots of the notorious luwak (civet) coffee.

Before the festivities began I wanted to gain some knowledge about the local production of coffee, so I went on a day trip through the Kintamani highlands, a volcanic plateau with an average elevation of 1000-1700 meters.

The agricultural production on the island has been well organized for generations through the subak abian, which functions similar to a co-op and is based on the principle that happiness is a result of maintaining a healthy relationship with other people, the environment, and the gods. The farmer can utilize the subak abian to process and sell their harvest, which in addition to coffee may include cloves, orange, cocoa, and rice.

A leading member of the subak abian, Mr. Astika Nyoman III, accompanied us on the trip.  Here he is describing the various plants and shade cover that grow in harmony with the coffee, and some of the challenges that face the local farmers.

One challenge has been a lack of water for processing, but as a response the natural method (in which the entire cherry is sun-dried on a raised bed) is now being used for a portion of the harvest and the results have been interesting — a cup with huge chocolaty body, brandied fruit aromas, and good sweetness. This spirit of experimentation is encouraging in a region that is constantly challenged by the ever present whim of nature.

More from Bali to come soon…