The opportunity to visit Ethiopia is for any avid coffee student, wondrous! And for Mercanta such an endeavour was no different.
Known as the birth place of coffee Ethiopia is somewhat of a Mecca for many in specialty coffee and the experience of visiting has left me further amazed and enthralled with the complexities of its coffees and the country itself.
In the time I spent in Ethiopia on this trip I felt I absorbed so much information, in every interaction I had with people to the beautiful imagery that played its way across my vision. There was always an abundance to consume, and yet somehow I still feel my real understanding is so minimal. What most amazed me about coffee in Ethiopia is the range of profiles that can be found within one country.
Due to Ethiopia’s sheer enormity a chosen region of focus was required, on this occasion it was the South. Arriving in the bustling Addis Ababa, everywhere you look the space is filled with people, businesses and construction taking place, including the new light rail transit project.
We travelled south out of the City, through Shashemene to Awasa. This drive alone is five hours and it is the only place I have been where you travel down in altitude from the Capital city to the coffee growing regions. Addis Ababa is situated at a mighty 2,300 meters above sea level while Awassa is at 1,708 and is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s region.
From Awassa we went to Aleta Wondo were we visited a number of Co operatives from the Sidamo Union, this was a lovely opportunity to meet some of the people behind the processing of these coffees and to see how things function here.
It was impressive how organised and neat the remains of the pulped cherry had been separated into areas for composting, and how at this particular cooperative they were using a grass system of cleaning their waste water to prevent contamination of the surrounding water sources. This is a system that uses Vetiver grass originating in Southern India.
After visiting the cooperative we went to visit a woman called Almaz, who part owns a private processing station which was established ten years ago and bought by her 3 years ago. We visited the Fero Cooperative, which was full of so many beautiful smiling faces busy with their work. The magnificence of the people in Ethiopia has somewhat spellbound me, much like their coffees are able to do.
On our return to Addis Ababa we had many exciting coffees to cup, I was equally eager with anticipation to cup as I was mindful of the immense amount I would learn through cupping so many Ethiopian coffees and with people who work with these coffees daily. It was so interesting to learn of the appreciation and importance of coffee amongst Ethiopian people, there are approximately 6.5 million bags of coffee produced in Ethiopia annually and 2.2-2.3 million of which are consumed locally. You can buy green coffee beans in the supermarket to home roast, as is the custom.
We have found a number of lots from Ethiopia this year that I am excited about and look forward to sharing with you. We will be working to continue to build relationships that have begun here and continue to learn about this country, its people and their coffees.
by Joanne Berry