This coffee comes the highlands of Uraga, which is one the key coffee producing districts of Guji Zone, itself part of “Oromia”, one of the nine ethnically based regional states of Ethiopia). Despite being not much more than 20 kms away as the crow flies from historically much greater famed Gedeb and Yirgachefe (which are actually districts of Gedeo Zone, part of the “SNNPR” regional state), the profiles of Guji Zone are distinctly excitingly different from their cousins. Different landraces (cultivars) plays a large part for sure, but there’s a lot of “je ne sais quo” as well – that mysterious combination of climate, soil, plant husbandry, picking and seelection, processing, drying..
Every coffee has a path to market, and it happens without us: who are we to misrepresent our understanding of the many layers, our connection to the contributors from cherries through export logistics, our influence, our buying power?The number of hands is many and we cannot hope to exert the same influence over quality assurance and logistics as we can in the other countries we work. Nor can a foreign company set up an export business in Ethiopia (as we have done in Colombia). Therefore we must partner wisely to ensure we get the coffee we select and that the impact of our purchase is as positive as possible. While in the past we have purchased Cooperative coffees directly from the big (and small) export Unions, as well as from a bunch of small estates/private exporters, this season we have elected to partner with Ethiopian national Ephrem Beyene.
The things that are important when buying coffee in Ethiopia for us is that: we know where the coffee has come from, and have a sense of how it came to taste the way it does, and then finally ensure we’re happy in our understanding of how the coffee gets from washing station warehouse to the mill in Addis Ababa, to the ship in neighbouring country Djibouti (the way all Ethiopian coffee is exported, by necessity of being land-locked). It may seem we’re glossing over the details that we lavish attention on in other countries, things such as: what did the producer get paid in their currency, at the farm gate?; what are the agricultural conditions of the production?; how can the trajectory of quality be maintained and what support is needed from us to assist? what programs would the producers benefit from? And we are…
Conscious coffee buying is necessarily aid or activist work. And ours in Ethiopia is (a) only beginning, and (b) complicated in execution by many more layers than we can possibly enumerate. We are committed to finding the best partners in Ethiopia to work with, we will not give up on seeking to ensure our purchases are benefitting (especially the most vulnerable) individuals, communities, environment. We do not wear this burden lightly.
oh, and a note about agriculture: basically it's a case of “don't panic”, as it's mostly organic by default in Ethiopia. This lot is not organically certified however.
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