Bekele Legie is 44 years old and has eight children who are all in school, four of them in elementary school and the other four in high school. He started his coffee farm business at a young age on the land given to him from his father. He has been awarded as a model farmer from his village. 

Recently Bekele began exporting coffees directly, taking advantage of the incentives offered to small scale farmers and the relaxing of the export restrictions in Ethiopia. 

Origin name: Yirgacheffe
Washing station name: Bekele Legi
Type (association/ mill /coop/ farm): farm
Founded: Inherited
Altitude: 2000 masl
Region: Yirgacheffe
Sub Region: Bulle
Farm size: 10 hectares

    Ayidefer is the founder of a farmer representation company and he introduced us to Kedir Bali. Ayidefer was born in Yirgacheffe, or more precisely Adado, close to Dilla, but he moved to Addis as a child and started studying accounting in 2003. Right after graduation in 2006, he joined the Yirgacheffe coop union and worked as an export assistant, then certification officer, export manager and finally traceability system coordinator, geotagging coffee for the ECX. Accounting wasn’t what he wanted to do in life, rather he wanted to start his own company and be able to impact the lives of farmers directly, so he studied an MBA, focusing on development management. When he graduated in 2017, he founded his own company to give smallholder farmers direct access to roasters and importers. He started with ten smallholder farmers and four washing stations with vertical linkage, meaning the station sell parchment directly to him, and he exports directly to buyers.During one of our meetings, I asked him the question, why coffee? “My family is from Yirgacheffe. Coffee is one of the only commercial crops that we can work with for livelihood and trading. The value chain is large and there are many opportunities, sometimes bad and sometimes good. When I first tasted coffee from the coop that created Yirgacheffe union, I was blown away. It was so different from what I had tasted before. I knew that I wanted to pursue this quality, but also understand where these coffee profiles came from. The more I worked with export and certification, the more I understood that the reason I didn’t know was because the coffee lost its traceability along the way. It has been a personal pursuit of mine ever since.

    After traveling to Kenya and witnessing the farming practices, I started to understand that we had something special. Coffee grows naturally in Ethiopia, there’s no use of synthetic fertilizers and disease controlling agents. Until a few years ago, soil did not need much attention, the climate was perfect for cherry development, and yields were good. In recent years, we have noticed that we need to pay more attention. Water is either scarce or too abundant, temperature too cold or too warm, harvest early or late, short or long… Farmers have had to reforest their area to protect their coffee and get better quality. 

    There is still one problem. Farmers have been given more freedom of export, but do not know how to or what to do with it. They are not able to reach the importers or roasters on their own. Most are still selling their coffee at fixed prices to washing stations and being depersonalized or devalued by being blended into larger lots.”

    “My goal is to bring those farmers forward and create a healthy business for all,” he said. ”If I manage to get a deal, I feel like I am helping my country as well as the farmers that produced the coffee.”

    “Improving the farmers living standard has always given me strength.”




    Heirloom

    Harvest and cherry selection Coffee cherries are harvested by family members, then hand-sorted to remove unripe and overripe cherries before they are delivered to the washing station for processing. Cherry prices reached as high as 28 Birr/kg this season.
    Soaking and pre-sorting The cherries will then be moved to the drying beds. Underripe and defective cherries will be sorted out by hand during the first days.
    Fermentation When producing naturals the level of fermentation will be determined by the thickness and layer during the first days of drying in combination with temperature. Fermentation is slower at higher altitudes as temperatures are generally lower.
    Drying and hand-sorting The cherries are dried in a relatively thin layer at about 3-4 cm the first days. They will build up the layers to 6-10 cm after a few days. The coffees are moved frequently and they will be covered during the hottest hours of the day to protect the cherries from intense sunlight, then again at night to protect against humidity. This will also help improve quality as the coffee is rested and the drying more homogeneous. Drying naturals at these altitudes can take up to 20 days.
    Warehousing at the washing station After drying the coffees will be packed in jute bags and stored in the local warehouse onsite, separated by process and grade. Lot sizes can vary from 100 – 300 bags. This process helps condition the coffee and achieve a more uniform humidity. They will normally be stored 1-2 months before they are moved. In some cases the parchment will be hand-sorted in the warehouse.
    Transport and logistics After the harvest season is over the coffees are moved to warehouses and dry mills in Addis. Trucking is expensive in Ethiopia. The coffee trucks must pass a local ECX checkpoint where its contents are graded and registered as an exportable product, before it continues to Addis Ababa.   
    Warehousing and dry milling The coffee will sit in parchment in a warehouse in Addis. This is when our team will go to the warehouse and collect the samples from the specific stock lots. It remains in parchment until it is contracted and the destination for shipment is confirmed.
    Tropiq Lab and quality control Our team on the ground in Addis personally collect samples which we cup and grade, and measure humidity and water activity. When the specific lot is selected for purchase we register the contract with a shipping destination and approve it for milling and shipment. We are present at the dry mill during processing, grading and bagging, and we immediately take a PSS sample for approval.      
    Container stuffing and transport We generally try to get our containers stuffed in Addis at the dry mills and moved to the port and straight on a vessel in Djibouti. This way we reduce the risk of delays or mistakes at port that frequently happen when moving coffee by truck for stuffing in Djibouti.
    There is a lot of coffee in Ethiopia, and many good lots, but things are not always as straightforward as they seem. What you cup is not always what you get. With most washing stations, this really depends on the relationship to the suppliers, at what stage you draw the sample and the local warehousing and dry milling facilities used.

    Tropiq is a Nordic Approach company providing supply chain management services for transparent and traceable coffees direct from origin. Our team in Addis Ababa visit producers, washing stations and warehouses throughout the season. In the peak of the season we are daily in dialogue with the millers and exporters. Having people on the ground gives us early and direct access to samples, first-hand information on coffees, immediate entry to warehouses and timely quality control.  

    Gallery