Whilst in some respects the coffee industry in Ethiopia is frustrating, there is clearly so much potential to enhance its position in the global coffee community. Here Colin reviews our enthralling trip.
REVIEW OF COFFEE ORIGINS TRIP TO ETHIOPIANovember / December 2019
Spending the first day in Addis Ababa we were escorted by Dagi (Dagmawi Iyasu Eminetu) of Ya Coffee to the ECX – the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. All coffees pass through here as a control and it has its own grading system which identifies commercial to speciality grades in nine different divisions. On my previous trip the market was an open auction, but for the last three years it has been computerised. We tasted in their grading room, experiencing one washed and two naturally processed coffees. Visiting the Coffee Exporters Association, the General Manager, Mr Gizat Worku, met us in his office to explain the sales system. Coffee growing falls into four different categories: Wild Forest coffee, Farm Forest, Small Holdings, and Commercial.
20% of agricultural land in Ethiopia is used for coffee, from which 30% of GDP is achieved from its sale. The sector employs 13 million people.
We then visited Ya Coffee, and Dagi gave us an understanding of the industry and shared the “Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony” with us, which we were to experience quite a few times on this trip. Any visitor to the country will see coffee made this way in shops, stalls and even on the street. It involves the brewing of a dark-roasted, finely-ground coffee in a ‘Jebena’ (a closed, round, spouted pot ) to create a thick, strong and bitter brew. Our day ended with a an evening of splendid traditional Ethiopian food and dancing.
We had lunch in a restaurant in Yirgacheffe…Leonardo was able to get the WiFi password….. but constant efforts to log on – we found out there wasn’t any WiFi anyway ! Back to Dilla for dinner, then off to a washing station at 10.00pm to see red cherries that had been picked today arriving for pulping.
At Hawassa we stayed in the luxurious Haile Resort and enjoyed a day’s R&R…. relaxing by the lake, taking a boat trip to see hippos and many birds, (which were identified for us by Joe who had spent a long time in South Africa). Our lunch was fried fresh fish from the lake.
The long trip back to Addis was broken by a visit to BNT dry mill. The coffee received here in parchment from the washing stations is stored until ready for export. Here the parchment is removed and yet more ladies hand sort the green beans for defects. When we arrived they had finished for the day so we were given a table of coffee to sort…
Our last day gave us the opportunity to cup a selection of twelve coffees at the BNT offices. An excellent line up of washed and natural coffees which enabled us to assess and compare how much variation there is in coffees from different regions and with different preparation methods.
This was a very successful trip in a most interesting country. The group bonded well, and were happy to share their knowledge and experience during the trip. We owe many thanks to Phil Schluter of Olam Soeciality Coffee, Tewodros Yilak (Teddy), Managing Director of BNT, who organised the tour; to his colleague Benti, who was our guide; and to Dagi, who gave us such a comprehensive day of introduction.
Colin Smith 31.12.2019