Town: Smallholder producers from Birbes Kela, Koke, Konga, Wedessa, and Tisho kebeles - brought to Birbes Kela and Koke washing stations for processing
- Region: Yirgacheffe, Gedeo, SNNPR
- Process: Honey
- Elevation: 1800 meters
Variety: Kurume, Dega, Wolisho
This coffee was sourced from ~1200 smallholder producers who brought their harvests from the surrounding kebeles to the Koke and Birbes Kela washing stations in the woreda of Yirgacheffe. Yirgacheffe is a county-like municipality in the Gedeo zone of Ethiopia that has become quite famous for its coffee. Many believe it to be the birthplace of coffee. Because of Yirgacheffe’s elevation and climate, its coffee often has a delicate floral quality with a fruit-like acidity.
This is a honey processed coffee. Coffee processing refers to the method used to remove the coffee cherry from the coffee bean. Honey processing is a hybrid method between the two most commonly used practices: natural and washed processing. In the honey method, the coffee is first depulped, as it is in the washed process. This involves cycling the coffee through a depulper, a type of mill which removes the outermost skin of the coffee cherry. The coffee is then dried with the remaining mucilage (fruit flesh) still on the coffee beans. Honey processing can be carried out leaving various levels of mucilage. Honey processing typically results in coffee which has maintained some of the fruit-like acidity and body characteristic of naturally processed coffees, but has also gained the cleanliness and clarity which washed processed coffees are known for.
Much Ethiopian coffee is considered passively organic, meaning the coffee is grown and harvested quite naturally, without the use of pesticides and harsh chemicals. However, the farms themselves are not certified organic, as the farmers do not have the capital to invest in paying bureaucratic organizations to inspect their practices.
Harvesting coffee for many Ethiopian farmers involves hand-picking ripe cherries from indigenous trees. Each picker is able to pick around 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherries per day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee. They are paid based on the quantity and quality of the coffee they pick. With many specialty-grade coffees, each one of the dozens of coffee beans in your morning cup of coffee was spotted by a picker and picked by hand, and then, many times, sorted from the larger harvest by hand. This is quite different from plantations in countries which produce large quantities of commodity grade coffee, where much of the coffee is picked by machines which strip all of the cherries from a tree.
We were thoroughly impressed by this honey-processed coffee. It has a very balanced and sweet flavor. It is quite light and delicate, with a pomegranate-like acidity and thoroughly sweet milk chocolate finish.