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The Birthplace of Coffee – Ethiopia

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Coffee Starts it journey when Yemen exported coffee from Mocha port to Arabia countries, and then Europeans. First coffee plantation was appeared in Yemen, before that Ethiopia already harvested coffee from wild coffee trees in Kaffa and Buno area.

Currently #Ethiopia is the 5th biggest coffee produce and export country, it claims almost 5% of world coffee market. There are 85% of Ethiopia agriculture export to worldwide, and coffee contributes 43% of the agriculture exportation. The top 5 countries which Ethiopia exports to were Germany (22 %), Saudi Arabia (16 %), United States of America (11%), Japan (10%), Belgium (7 %). Compare to other coffee produce countries focus more on export coffee for foreign currency, Ethiopia consumes almost half (46%) of coffee they produced. Until now when you visit Ethiopian family, the first thing you should do is to sit down and let the owner treat you 3 cups of coffee. It becomes a traditional for Ethiopia people. (Data source from International Coffee Organization and USDA)

From Ethiopia Coffee Buying Guide issued by UDAID, either natural or washed process, only grade 1 and grade 2 Ethiopia coffee considered specialty grade and grade 3-9 consider as commercial grade. When sourcing Ethiopia coffee, Belux Coffee Roasters only selects grade 1 from coffee importers. From #coffee exporting data we know there are 11% of Ethiopia coffee export to US, however mostly they are commercial grade. In order to provide good quality and good flavor Ethiopian coffee we spend a lot of efforts to select, inspect, roast and taste Ethiopia coffees. Every time when we select new coffee, we requested samples from different importers that they provide different flavor profiles from different production region of the countries. When we receive green bean samples we inspect the beans including size, color, shape and defeated. Then we pull and count defeated beans before roasting samples. After roasting, we taste coffee in several different days to make sure the quality is good and flavor is stable.

About 95% of Ethiopian coffee considered use “#organic” way to plant coffee without any chemical involved, but most of the farmers do not have funding to get organic certification. Around 20% of Ethiopian works for coffee or coffee related industries. Small land holder farmers produce 95% of Ethiopia’s coffee in varied environments, including garden, semi-forest, forest and plantation systems. Ethiopian coffee is usually produced in a sustainable way. The majority grown is garden coffee. The farmers plant coffee tree close to their houses and is often intercropped with other plants. The other way also common for producers to grow coffee in a semi-forest system, in which natural forest is modified with slashing of weeds and bushes for shade regulation and coffee seedlings are introduced. Some of producer pick ripe coffee from wild coffee trees in forest directly which are mostly grown in the southwest area of Ethiopia. The yield and productivity are related low compare to cultivated plants. Only around 5% of coffee production is on a dedicated plantation.

Yirgacheffe Coffee

As the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia has several regions produce coffee with different climate, environment, and people grow the different varieties of coffee either categorized or uncategorized, with the variety named: Heirloom.

There are 6 main coffee regions in Ethiopia including Ghimbi/Lekempti, Limu, Jima, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe and Harrar. Cup profile is different from region to region, even sub-region. Under these 6 regions, #Yirgacheffe is the most famous region which earn it exceptional reputation in specialty coffee by its unique citric acidity with floral, fruity complex flavor with mid-body and sweetness aftertaste especially in natural process. Belux Coffee Roasters’ new Ethiopian coffee is from Yirgacheffe. It produced at an elevation of 2,050 to 2,200 MASL from family owned farms around #Idido mill area. Small coffee farmers deliver ripe cherries to the Idido mill where the cherries are sorted. The cherries are placed on raised drying beds in thin layers and turned every 2 to 3 hours during the first few days of the drying process. Then the beans are transported to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to be milled and bagged prior to export. The taste note for this coffee is blueberry, graham cracker, strawberry.

Now and Future

In order to reduce price volatility and give farmers more incentive to plant coffee, Ethiopia government established Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) in 2008. All the coffee transaction into a platform and coffee roasters, importers can get coffee through auction system in ECX. Unlike other coffee produce countries, coffee farms or cooperative can direct trade with foreigner buy, in Ethiopia all coffee transaction need to go through this system. Meanwhile the other main flaw of this system is the traceability, it’s quite not fit what specialty coffee pursues. Fortunately starting from 2017 April, the exporter with license can sell coffee directly to international buyer, meanwhile farmers may sell beans directly to the roasters without ECX platform. Right now either importers and roasters have much more opportunity to source their own coffee with better quality and traceability. And Coffee farmers have more opportunity to get directly trade to increase their margin without middleman get involved.

Last year we have an interesting experience. One of our good friends know someone from Ethiopia. One day she gave us around 2kg of unroasted coffee to try. The green bean looks beautiful and less defeated beans, after checking the color and the smell we believe it’s washed process beans. As what we seen, we would like to recognize it Grade 1. After carefully roasting with medium-light level, we found the fragrance is very fruity and the aroma with citrus, tropical fruits, some floral and after taste is sweet. After talking with our friend again, we know this coffee is from her friend whom they own a coffee farm in Jima. It’s a wonderful experience that we never taste coffee from Jima as in US seldom coffee imports carry Ethiopian coffee which produced from Jima region. The coffee is surprisedly good, and we know now we have more opportunities to source good coffee through different channels.

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