Notes from Ethiopia

January 21, 2020

Notes from Ethiopia

This year I visited a good amount of new coffee producers in Ethiopia! We identified Limu as high potential in the future so Seife and I first headed West to Jimma, just on the edge of the coffee producing areas of Limu. Jimma is a busy mid-size African city with a frontier town kind of feel, and it was only my second time there. You're awakened pretty early by half a dozen calls to prayer (if not jet lag) and as the city wakes up every square inch fills up with dust from trucks rolling down the roads. 

We visited three sites in Jimma; Limu Yebo, a neighboring site which I forgot the name of, and Limu Gera - which we have this year. Limu Yebo and its unnamed neighbor were both less than remarkable currently. The owners both were highly focused on volume, and were upset we wouldn't commit to buy massive amounts of coffee on the spot. One asked Seife, our exporter, why we were even there if we aren't buying coffee. When asking who the manager was the owner was unable to figure this out, and after about an hour managed to produce a guy high as a kite on khat (a narcotic leaf really common here). This makes it pretty difficult to see future potential here, but things change. Limu Gera was the opposite type of experience.

Getting close to Limu Gera, the scenery seems to change pretty dramatically. Lots of large leafed tropical plants, deep green scenery, and a little higher humidity were distinct and obvious the morning we arrived here. I always equate soil/terroir with uniqueness of flavor, so at the least, this is interesting to note. This producer had a  clean and organized station, with a manager present and clearly directing work. The people were in good spirits who were sorting and turning coffee on the drying beds, and there was more of an eagerness to show us around and answer questions. This interest and engagement is a great thing to see. It usually indicates a person who is excited about quality and self motivated to improve and grow! It makes me very hopeful about this coffee turning into a longer term and deeper relationship in the future.

After Limu and Jimma we headed South to more familiar territory in Guji and Yirgacheffe. Another border type town, Yirgacheffe is the gateway to the coffee regions we've worked in and wandered through for years. The sites we visited that we are focusing on going forward in this area are Bole Hora, Waru, Anferrara (a farm), Konga Wote, and a station that Seife has set up to manage personally. The main project Seife is working on is getting sites to do pre-sorting of cherries and shade nets over the drying beds. Many of the producers in this area have drying times of less than a week, which is very quick, and with shade we've seen that extended to 2-3 weeks in some cases. Slowing down this process, when managed carefully, can dramatically increase complexity and stability of the coffee so I'm excited to see the results here.

Notes on the Guji Stations another day- all for now