Early 2019 I was put in touch with Abenezer from SNAP. I was still looking for stunning natural coffee and diversifying the Tropiq portfolio by finding new, up and coming, quality focused suppliers to work with. Twenty coffees later, Buku Saysa catches my attention, a coffee loaded with wild forest berries, guava, florals, plum wine. A coffee that was all over the place, but still very focused and intriguing. I knew it had potential.

Fast forward to 2020. After running through the first lot, implementing some of the things we learned along the way, building a new dry mill in Hambela, it was time for a new harvest, and it is no less than amazing and impressive.

This year’s coffees show a little fresher acidity, even more focused and clean. Station manager and farmer, Mr. Esayas Beriso, truly produces some of the best naturals I’ve cupped. 

Teaser: Next year he is planning to build a wetmill and certify organic.

This lot is from Buku, a district of Hambela Wamena in the broader Guji Zone. This coffee has been picked at maturity with the strict supervision from the station manager (and farmer) Mr. Esayas Beriso. The farm supplies to SNAP coffee exporters. Buku is one of the highest elevated coffee growing areas in Ethiopia with an altitude of 2,350 meters above sea level. The farm plots are scattered and the terrain is uneven, so farmers deliver cherry on horseback. This natural has unique and delicious characteristics of raspberry, lemonade, brown sugar, coconuts, melon and juicy body. Origin name: Buku Saysa Type: Private washing station Altitude: 2000-2350 masl Region: Guji Sub Region: Hambela
SNAP COFFEE was established in Addis Ababa in 2008, by coffee-passionate entrepreneur, Negusse D. Weldyes. The company runs three coffee washing and processing stations in Chelelektu, Kochere District of the Gedeo Zone and partnering washing stations in Uraga (Guji) and Nensebo (West Arsi). On average, about 550 farmers supply each washing station.

The company’s supply policy rests on three main pillars:
  1. Process specialty coffee consistently;
  2. Transfer the required know-how to the outgrowing farmers along with a great desire and training in processing and cleaning methods;
  3. Protect the environment through waste recycling systems.
Snap is a business group engaged in other activities as well. They have an electronics assembly business and a software development company. They began their speciality coffee export business after the ECX reformed regulations to make it easier for companies to export coffee in 2017.The company currently exports about 78 containers per year. They employ around 253 employees, of which 13 are in their speciality coffee exporting business.

Snap’s relationship with Tropiq began quite recently. “We are quite at ease because of Tropiq’s efficiency in communication, and even more on logistics facilitation,” Abenezer, Snap’s Supply Chain Manager said. He also reports that Tropiq’s regular and timely feedback on coffee lots have given Snap a lot of insight which helps them supply consistently great coffee.
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 this season.
Soaking and pre-sorting The cherries are soaked in water. The healthy cherries will sink, while the diseased and damaged cherries will float and are skimmed off and removed. 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 handsorting 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 local warehouses and dry mills. Natural coffees cannot move to Addis in cherry form, so they are milled locally only for the purpose of removing the husk and parchment. The coffee trucks must then 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 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.

SNAP Coffee supports the community of smallholders living near the washing station through partnerships with washing station owners. The washing stations build schools and SNAP Coffee provides computers and other facilities. Other projects in the works include a road to connect less accessible farming areas to the washing station and health clinics to improve access to healthcare for farmers in the washing station areas.

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.