A couple of weeks ago the team and I headed to the south to spend a week visiting different suppliers we work with as well as new potentials. 

The first stop of the season was with Kanketi, a family run business that we partnered with in 2018. They are based in Yirgacheffe and have followed this harvest with hawkeyes. It should have started a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, average temperatures have been quite low, rainfall has been long with little sunshine to see, hence maturation and cherry development has been slow. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will affect the overall quality. That said, it will most definitely affect volumes and overall screen size, which in turn should have an effect on price. Hambela, three hours south of Yirgacheffe, had great sun and will most likely be the first cherries to mature this season, despite the high altitude. 

Visiting a 6-year-old farm just south of Bishan Fugu

After Kanketi we went to Gedeo, which is located east of Yirgacheffe in the higher altitudes. Rains had stopped there and farmers were expecting harvest to start mid-November. Because of the country-wide political situation, and Gedeo’s geographical location, officials are afraid that any rumors may stir things up in the local communities. For this reason the local municipality officials enforced strict rules regarding visitors and establishment of washing stations. No talks of tribes, money, or foreigners were allowed. 

From Gedeo we headed to Gedeb, in the lost forests of Worka. On the way we got a message that Jawa Mohammed made a public announcement expressing his lack of confidence in the current prime minister. Jawa is an activist from the Oromo ethnic group, the country’s largest. Thousands of Oromo activists gathered around his house in Bole, Addis, and protests spread from there to other parts of Ethiopia. Sixty seven people were reportedly killed in the violence which forced the government to close a lot of the roads and deploy police and army to contain the situation. 

Driving south east of Yirgacheffe, up a road that seemed to be going forever, we finally reach the top at 2900 masl in Gedeb. Only two stations were visible from the top, and we would spend the next two hours driving, walking and motorcycling to the different locations. The area is surrounded by hills with large indigenous trees and beautiful red soil. Most coffee trees in this area are 20 years old, and still showing great yield. The variety is detectable by the little flower that forms on the end of the cherry. The pulp tastes of mango and is super sweet. Definitely a place to look out for! 

Most of the varieties that were planted were supposed to be 74112. But in some areas of the farm we could see this variety, identifiable by a flower at the end of the cherry. Variety said to be indigenous.

The following day we drove to smallholder farmers further north in Gedeo, closer to Dilla. Uphill was the keyword for this trip; our car almost didn’t make it to the top. Fetene, son of Dingu, one of the three farmers in the area, introduced us to his community and home. I was truly impressed by the investment they had made to improve their drying tables, living conditions and farms. Their stories deserve separate blog posts, so stay tuned! 

On Saturday the roads to Addis opened again and we were able to safely return to our home.

Preparing new drying beds at Ononcho washing station, run by Kanketi. These structures will be painted with anti rust paint before installed at the station. These more durable drying beds are said to last 10 years, making it a worthwhile investment of 15,000 Birr instead of 5000 Birr for the normal wooden tables that need to be changed every year.
Preparing the bases for more durable drying beds.

What the political situation means for the upcoming harvest

Politically things are very unstable in Ethiopia at the moment, and instability often leads to violence. We are keeping a close eye on the situation and will plan our travels accordingly. Fortunately, if travel becomes impossible, we are on the ground in Addis and can manage things on your behalf. 

The two events we are keeping a close watch on are the Sidama region referendum in November and the general election planned for May 2020. 

November travels

The upcoming referendum in Sidama will decide whether the region should become an autonomous regional state within Ethiopia. The referendum was originally scheduled for November 13 but it has since been postponed to November 20. We have decided to cancel our planned pre-season trip which focuses on the coffee growing areas in this part of Ethiopia. 

December travels

For now our December trip will go ahead as planned, but keep your flights flexible. If the threat of violence is high we will cancel this trip. 

February / March travels

We are confident that things will calm down by February and March, so this is the time to book your flights. However the election in May puts a question mark over logistics, so our aim is to have all our Ethiopian coffees shipped before the election. That means you will need to be ready to make decisions when you cup in February or March so we can have your coffee milled and shipped asap. We don’t recommend combining washed and natural containers or any other decisions that might delay getting your coffees on the water.  

Rely on us for pre-selections

If you are not able to visit Ethiopia this year, we are here in Addis and at your service. Let us know what you’re looking for and we can do the pre-selections and send you PSS for approval.

Contact our sourcing team to discuss your needs, and take a look at our trusted partners in Ethiopia. This is where we’ll start our search for your coffees.