Sidamo is a well known region for most people. That said, with the privatisation of the coffee industry in Ethiopia over the past 2 years, new areas and municipalities or sub regions have been developing. Some cross over from Sidamo to a lesser known region called West Arsi.
The latter has been a special interest of ours. Bordering the national park of Bale Mountain, the variety of profiles has been astonishing. Bensa is located in between the borders of both regions. Popping out on the table while cupping the first stock lots of the season at the Testi headquarters. Intensely tropical and black currant like, great balance and acidity, high level of sweetness and complexity
Origin name: Bensa
Farm/Washing Station name: Testi Ayla
Type (association/ mill /coop/ farm): Mill owned by the exporter
Altitude: 1950-2000 masl
Sub Region: Bensa
Number of farms: 800
Farm size: 1-2 hectares
We have known and worked with Faisel, Adam and the rest of the team of Testi Exporters for many years. Faisel Abdosh is the owner of seven washing stations as well as the owner of the export business. He was joined by his cousin Adam in 2014. Adam used to live in Texas and he moved to Ethiopia to be involved in the family’s growing business. Testi offers coffees at different quality and price levels, including the specialty coffees we source. A few of Faisel’s washing stations produce the specific profiles we are after, and they offer a wide selection of samples for cupping in our Addis lab which ensures we have access to a good selection.
Testi is only involved in coffee as they believe focus is essential to achieve excellence. When asked about their efforts and strategies to ensure quality, Adam said they have a laser sharp focus on each block of their operation, “thus we know nothing goes wrong and we have a great chance to make improvements.”
|Harvest and cherry selection||Cherries are collected manually and hand sorted later.|
|Pulping and pre-grading||The cherries are pulped by a traditional Agaarde Discpulper. Skin and fruit pulp are removed before the machine grades the parchment in water as 1st or 2nd quality, determined by density.|
|Fermentation||The parchment is fermented in water for 72 hours.|
|Washing and grading in channels||Coffees are washed in channels, and graded in water by density. The lower density (lower quality) will float and are removed, leaving only the denser and therefore higher quality beans which are separated as higher grade lots.|
|Soaked under clean water||Parchment is then soaked in tanks in clean water for 2 hours before it is moved to the drying tables.|
|Drying and hand-sorting||Coffee is then piled up in layers which are 2cm in height and dried over a 10 day period then followed by hand sorting for 2-4 hours.|
|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.|
Testi employs about twenty permanent staff members. In partnership with customers, they have built two schools in Guji and Yirgacheffe. “Most people claim to do activities that support the community, but rarely do they actually follow up in its operation and sustainable execution,” Adam said. The Testi team follows up on the schools they built and supplies them with materials needed for a consistent operation. They are now planning on building water pumps to give the community access to clean drinking water.
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.