Coffee category: Bright
Process: NaturalWhat to expect: An easy drinking natural that is bright and fruity. Expect notes of blackberry and hibiscus tea with a dry finish.
Producer: Kayon Mountain Coffee Farm
Region: Guji, Oromia
Altitude: 1,900-2,100m above sea level
Varietals: Various Ethiopian Heirloom
Farm size: 240 hectares
The Kayon Mountain Coffee Farm is owned by Ato Esmael and family members that have been born and raised around the experience of coffee. These shareholding members had mainly been supplying coffee to auction for the past 30 years until they started their farm in 2012 with the goal of growing high quality coffee with an added focus on social and environmental practices.
The farm is about spread out over an area of around 500 hectares of which around 240 hectares is planted in heirloom Typica coffee and the other land reserved for cabbage, and indigenous shade trees. The local varieties are geared towards producing well in the natural soil and under the shade of the native forest on the land.
By 2015, Ato had implemented washing stations and dry-hullers allowing them to start exporting their own coffees and they now see an annual production of about 300 tons. The coffees see an average fermentation time of 36–48 hours, followed by an average drying time of 10–20 days. The care and skill in how Ato handles his coffee shines through to the cup, and has that added intensity of flavours that often set coffees from Guji apart from other Ethiopian coffees.
Kayon Mountain plans to plant more coffee, improve the quality of their processing, and even begin leasing more land to expand their practice.
The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established by the Ethiopian government in 2008 with the intention of democratizing marketplace access to farmers growing beans, corn, coffee, and wheat, among other commodities. As farmers in Ethiopia typically own very small plots of land and are largely sustenance farmers—growing what crops they need for household use and selling the surplus for cash—it was decided that standardization would be the most egalitarian way to improve economic health and stability in the agricultural sector.
The ECX strove to eliminate the barriers to sale by giving farmers an open, public, and reliable market to which to sell their products for a set and relatively stable price. At its inception, the ECX rules dictated that any coffee not produced by a private estate or a co-operative society was required to be sold through the Exchange, which established guaranteed price and sale for farmers, but by design, it took the “specialty” out of the coffee and turned it into a commodity—escaping all traceability aside from the most basic regional and grade information.
Part of the definition of a “commodity” is that it must be replaceable: For instance, 100 bags of Grade 1 washed Yirgacheffe bought in December must be of equivalent quality to 100 bags of Grade 1 washed Yirgacheffe bought in August, period. Coffees are assigned grades based on their uniformity, cleanliness, and presence or absence of defect without consideration for flavour notes.
After pushback from the specialty-coffee industry and several rounds of intense negotiation, a later iteration established that washing-station information was made available after the coffees were purchased, though certainly tracing them down to the individual producers would prove impossible.
In March 2017, the ECX voted to allow direct sales of coffee from individual washing stations, which will not only allow for increased traceability, but will also allow for repeat purchases and relationship building all along the chain—a change that increases the potential for higher prices to the farmers. It remains to be seen what the impact of greater traceability and more direct sales will have on specialty coffees from Ethiopia, but the industry appears optimistic.