Among the producing countries, Ethiopia holds a very special place in the hearts of specialty coffee enthusiasts; not only because it is the birthplace of arabica coffee, but also because of the great variety of flavour profiles of its coffees. Usually having florals, tea like and exotic fruity notes, Ethiopian coffees are some of the most unique.
Recently we have been on an origin trip in Ethiopia, which started with a small symposium at our first day in Addis with exporters, farm owners, environmental experts, washing station owners and a representative from the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. All of them gave us a complete picture and detailed history of the coffee industry in Ethiopia.
Although there are still a lot of political, social and environmental challenges to face, the news at the symposium were great as the main message we got from the lectures was that the Ethiopian government is changing rules and allowing for more traceability in the coffee chain.
Previously producers were prohibited to export their own coffees and were forced to sell their production through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). ECX’s role was to facilitate the transfer of ownership from producers to exporters, and then to offer the grading of coffee by quality. On the other hand, traceability was almost inexistent since the lots were classified by general regions and graded by quality from 1 to 5. This had the repercussion of not rewarding the true value of the work of a farmer or washing station who would have worked exceptionally well, since their lot was mixed up with the others.
It was in March 2017 that the Ethiopian government began reforming the export system to open the market and allow exporters and bigger farms (estates) to export their own coffee with one condition: the selling price must always be higher than that which would have been fixed by the ECX for a comparable quality of coffee. As the reform is new only 10% of the coffees were purchased “directly” from an exporter in 2018, but it’s a good start. Several farms are currently in the process of applying for export licenses and have begun to detach themselves from the washing stations by processing their coffees directly on their farms.
Also, in the trip we have seen the areas of Sidama and Guji, which was about ten hours’ drive south of Addis Ababa. For three days we visited washing stations Anasora and Adola, Sidama cooperative and farms. Most coffee growers have small coffee gardens behind their house and the farm average size is about 0.6 hectares, producing about 600 kilos per hectare. In comparison, a farm known as “Estate” has more than 30 hectares and a production twice as high of 1000 to 1200 kilos per hectare. The market share of exportable coffee produced by “estate” is however marginal: about 5%.
During our stay in the Guji area, we were able to camp directly in the heart of the Adola washing station for a few nights. We also had the chance to participate in a dance party with the locals Oromos, as well as attend several traditional ceremonies of the coffee service.
Finally, the whole trip had several cuppings, which confirmed the enormous diversity of flavour profiles of the producing regions of Ethiopia and as a result we chose the best we could find to offer Kamba’s clients. These are very exciting coffees.
More about our partners in Ethiopia:
In Ethiopia we source our coffees from Israel Degfa who is one of Kamba’s partners and who also is a producer in Ethiopia owning farms and 20 Washing Stations in different producing regions. We have known him for years and he not only does an amazing job with quality but also with improving the communities where he operates. An example of that is he builds primary schools near all his farms and washing stations in order to give access to education for children who otherwise would have to walk to school for two to three hours every day.
In 2013 Israel founded Kerchanshe, an exporting company that has started experimenting with processing techniques and new machinery as he was inspired from a recent trip with us to Brazil, where we took him to visit a few coffee machine manufacturers.
Kerchashe also has transparent payment to farmers, the way it works is the government fixes the price every harvest and what they did was to implement a program with farmers that teaches them to harvest better quality coffees (the red cherries) for premium prices. They will always buy the coffee no matter what for a premium compared to governmental price- the better the quality, the bigger the premium. To control this project, they created a registration program for farmers where all of them have they membership number with Kerchanshe and keep a record of improvements again to assure an ongoing relationship. They also offer micro finance for famers wanting to improve the quality of coffees to reach the higher pricing premiums. Farmers are paid in cash on delivery of the coffee and the ones that keep improving quality will receive an after payment a few weeks later after coffee is sold. Having this membership does not mean they have to exclusively sell to Kerchanshe, it only means they can keep track of each other and also, they can access facilities such as schools and healthcare centres Kerchanshe has created.
All that said, we have selected the following coffees from them, which were our favourites for the recent crop:
Natural Bale Mountain
Natural Guji Kercha
Natural Guji Uraga
Washed Yirgacheffe Kochere
Washed Bule Hora
Check our offer list for more detailed information or send us a message asking specific questions and samples!