Coffee Category: Bright
Process: Washed and dried on African beds
What to expect
Ethiopian coffee has a reputation for being some of the best coffee in the world and for good reason. This coffee from Kochere highlights the great floral and tea notes that coffee in this this region can produce. Expect notes of Jasmine, tea and citrus, a coffee that is bright and acidic. This is a pure drink black only coffee as any kind of milk product will neutralize the acidity and make it very weak tasting.
Producer: Various Smallholder Farmers
Region: Banco Gotete, Kochere, Yirgacheffe
Altitude: 2,000 - 2,100m
Varietals: Various Ethiopian Heirloom Varietals
Average farm size: Less than 1 hectare
This exceptional lot was processed, dry milled and exported by Legu Trading. The coffee was grown by smallholder farmers living around the town of Banco Gotete in Gedeo County, Yirgacheffe region.
Most contributing farmers own less than a hectare of land, and they grow coffee simply as a backyard cash crop. Coffee will usually be interspersed with other subsistence crops, such as sweet potato, mangos and avocados. Varieties of coffee grown are usually interpreted to be ‘heirloom,’ as very little renovation takes place, and farmers simply inherit the trees of their parents. This is why the varieties are referred to as ‘heirloom’ by the industry. Locally, many farmers simply call them ‘Gedeo’ variety.
Income from coffee is important but minimal for most farmers due to the small size of their farms. As such, inputs are minimal – most coffee grown in the region is 100% organic, though not certified, as farmers simply don’t have the money to apply chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.
Legu trading tries to help with this situation by offering a premium price and by hiring as many individuals as possible in their mills and facilities. The company hires at least 300 people year round and up to 600 in the high season. All workers are paid a fair wage and receive full, 8 hour work days.
Coffee is selectively hand-picked before being delivered to collection points, usually within 10 km of the producers’ homes. Great care is taken upon delivery to separate out any overripe, underripe or damaged beans before consolidating with other lots for the road to the wet mill.
At least once a day, the collected coffee cherry is delivered to the mill, where it is pulped and then delivered to a fermentation tank, where it ferments for 12-18 hours depending on the climate at the time. After fermentation the coffee is fully washed through grading channels and is then delivered to dry on African beds. Once here, the parchment is turned regularly and protected from hot sun until it reaches the optimal humidity, at which point it is bagged and rested.
About the Yirgacheffe region
Yirgacheffe is actually part of the Sidamo region in southern Ethiopia, but its exquisite washed coffees are so well-known that is has been sub-divided into its own micro-region. This steep, green area is both fertile and high – much of the coffee grows at 2,000m and above.
At first glance Yirgacheffe’s hills look thickly forested - but in fact it is a heavily populated region and the hills are dotted with many dwellings and villages’ growing what is known as ‘garden coffee’. There are approximately 26 cooperatives in the region, representing some 43,794 farmers and around 62,004 hectares of garden coffee. The production is predominantly washed, although a smaller amount of sundried coffees also come out of Yirgacheffe.
Around 85 percent of Ethiopians still live rurally and make a living from agriculture; each family usually lives in amodest home (often a single round mud hut) and farms their own plot of land, where they grow both cash crops and food for their own consumption. In Yirgacheffe, coffee is one of the main cash crops – covering from half a hectare to 1.5 hectares (the latter is considered big). This is usually planted alongside a second cash crop – often a large-leafed tree used in making roofs for (and also shade provider for the coffee) known as 'false banana'. This looks like a banana tree but isn't - instead its thick stem is used to produce both a nutritious flour and a fermented paste that are staple ingredients (particularly across southern Ethiopia).
There is only one main harvest a year in Ethiopia - this usually takes place in November and December across all of the country's growing regions. There are, on average, 4 passes made during the harvest period, and, in regions that produce both washed and naturals, the last pass is used for the natural coffee. Washed coffees are then generally pulped on the same day that they are picked (usually in the evening/night), sorted into three grades by weight (heavy, medium and floaters), fermented (times vary - usually between 16 and 48 hours), washed and then usually graded again in the washing channels. The beans are then dried on African beds, where they are hand-sorted, usually by women.
About the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and Traceability:
For many years, Ethiopian coffee, some of the best in the world, was for the most part untraceable. Starting in 2008, Ethiopia began the centralization of all coffee exports through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), where the coffees were ‘anonymised’, stripped of any information other than region, in the interest of the farmers, who were meant to receive top dollar for quality regardless of the ‘name’ of the washing station or farm. Coffees moving through the ECX were (still are) delivered to certified coffee labs, where they were cupped according to profile then graded and marked generically for export. This ‘equalising’ measure certainly benefited some producers, but it had the negative impact of eliminating most roasters’ and importers’ ability to provide accurate information of the precise traceability of coffees. Even after the opening of the ‘second window’ (devised for direct sales of cooperative and certified coffee), as of the end of 2017 some 90 percent of coffees still moved through the ECX.
The end of March 2017 saw a huge overturning of this mandatory system. In a bill raised by the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Development and Marketing Authority, Ethiopian coffee (even that sold through the ECX) can be marketed and sold with full traceability intact. The aim is to limit black market dealings, to demand higher prices and to enable Ethiopian producers to share in a greater piece of the pie.
In a bit more detail, the new system proposes that any exporter with a valid license will be allowed to sell directly to buyers without placing the coffee on the ECX first. There is a slight caveat – the parchment coffee will have to be sold within three days of arriving at the processing plant in Addis. If it is still unsold after three days (which is quite likely), it must be sold through the ECX: BUT with its traceability info intact rather than being deleted. Additionally, it is proposed that oversees companies will be able to plant and sell coffee..
Our espresso recipe using 20g basket
20.5g in / 42g out
in 27 to 32 seconds