This coffee was grown by smallholder farmers living around the kebele of Konga in Yirgacheffee, Ethiopia. The washing station is operated by Primrose Cooperative who responsible for dry milling and exporting the final product.
Most of the farmers with smallholdings own less than a hectare of land, and they grow coffee simply as a backyard cash crop alongside subsistence crops, such as; sweet potato, mangos and avocados, but there are no other primary cash crops grown in the region.
Most coffee grown in this region is 100% organic, though not certified, as farmers simply don’t have the money to apply chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.
Farmers in the region are susceptible to a number of challenges, namely; an ageing generation of coffee trees, negative effects of climate change and fluctuations in the coffee market price. Climate change, in particular, is having difficult repercussions, as fluctuating season’s effects harvesting, as well as unexpected rains, increasing the length of the drying process. Fortunately, local initiatives are attempting to combat these problems.
Working with agricultural development agents, farmers in the region are finding new support to help combat climate change as well as plant new coffee trees, helping to improve the sustainable production of coffee in the area.
Regarding market price fluctuations, stakeholder organisations are working to pay fair prices to farmers for their coffee production. Primrose pays more than the market price for a kilogram of red cherry, and those farmers that bring quality red cherry are paid a cash incentive, ensuring higher-than-average overall quality. Coffee is selectively hand-picked before being delivered to the mill collection points, usually within 5 km of the producer’s homes. Here, lots are separated by quality, producer and date of production.
At least once a day, the collected coffee cherry is delivered to the mill, where it is floated and then placed on raised beds to be sorted by hand, usually by women, and dried. Great care is taken upon delivery to separate out any overripe, under-ripe or damaged bean. Once sorted, the cherry will remain on the beds for around 15 to 20 days; until the cherry has reached the ideal moisture content. Next, the dried cherry will be transported to Primrose's dry mill and warehouse in Addis Ababa city. Here coffee is dry milled to remove foreign material, remaining parchment, and defected beans; ready for export.
Varieties of coffee grown here are traditionally referred to as ‘heirloom’ by exporters – a catchall terminology which often masks the wide assortment of varieties that may be present within various regions…even, within farms. It is thought that there may be up to ten thousand naturally occurring varieties in the wild. Many of these varieties will have been developed originally by Ethiopia’s Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC), which, since the late 1960s, has worked to develop resistant and tasty varieties for the Ethiopian coffee industry and also to provide the agricultural extension training needed to cultivate them.
The dual factors of Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) forced anonymisation of lots (see below) combined with the relatively low awareness of formal variety names outside Ethiopia has meant that the JARC’s work has historically been under-recognised by specialty importers and roasters. It is important to note that varieties in Ethiopia fall within two main groups – regional or local landraces (of which there are at least 130, 33 of which would hail from the Southern growing regions) or JARC varieties. It is still very hard to tell but it is highly likely that this lot contains a great percentage of JARC 740110 and 74112 varieties, developed in 1974 by the JARC, which are directly descended from local landraces indigenous to the Gedeo Region. Most farmers have a mix of both the improved and the indigenous landrace varieties (inherited from parents and grandparents) on their farms, though research by Counter Culture’s Getu Bekele does show that there is a strong concentration of the JARC ’74 varieties.
Our recognition of these processes as an industry, admittedly, lags behind. Though the argument made by Getu Bekele is correct and salient, it remains difficult to get information from mills and exporters regarding the exact varieties that go into various lots.
- Expect notes of Early Grey, Elderflower, Blueberries
- Country: Ethiopia
- Region: Yirgacheffee
- Grower: Smallholder Farmers
- Altitude: 2,000 masl
- Variety: JARC 740110 & JARC 74112
- Process: Natural