Tadesse’s washing station processes the coffee from 700 smallholder farmers around this washing station, and their farms range in altitude from 1600m to 2000 meters above sea level. As is typical in the area, the washed coffee is fermented under water for a 36-48 hours then dried on raised beds.
It is interesting to note that this coffee would have historically been called a Sidamo coffee, as the political district of Uraga (within the larger Guji zone) lies within the very large Sidamo coffee region. This is particularly confusing as only a portion of the Guji zone lines within the Sidamo coffee region, and Sidamo as a whole is not even a contiguous piece of land. It’s for this reason that we choose to use the political designation, and of course the washing station owner name to identify this coffee. In general, we are happy to see the industry trend away from these older and less precise coffee area names toward the more specific political areas.
There have been some exciting changes announced regarding the Ethiopian coffee sector. Nearly 9 years since the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) was created, the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives has passed a new set of rules governing the coffee sector, the most important changes are: direct purchasing of coffee from any producer is now allowed, selling to the ECX is now optional, penalties were increased for illegal activities – cross border and internal smuggling primarily, a minimum farm gate price and minimum sale price for direct trade was set. It’s unclear when these changes will be enacted, and of course there are many details to sort out before, but Phil thinks these changes are an important step to improve traceability and, more importantly, to do a better job of putting the premiums paid for specialty coffee in the right hands of the chain.
We are very pleased with the quality of this coffee, but this season in Ethiopia was one of the most difficult ones that Phil has witnessed since he first started traveling there 5 years ago. Ironically, the weather cooperated this year, and the growing conditions were pretty good. However, Ethiopia suffered from major political unrest. Near the beginning of the harvest in mid-October, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency for the first time in 25 years, in response to the growing violent protests all over the country. The protests were mostly in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The latter region of Oromia is the largest coffee growing region in Ethiopia, and the unrest impacted the sector greatly. The reports Phil heard indicated that 40 washing stations in Oromia were burnt to the ground. Overall in the country, according to Human Rights Watch, 500 Ethiopians were killed since August 2016, largely in confrontations with military and police. This is tragic news from a country we have come to love not just for their amazing coffee, but some of the warmest, most genuine people on earth.
This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.