Once the coffees have been delivered to the washing station, they are then sorted to be used as natural or washed coffees – or even honeys as discussed in Part 1. After they have been sorted and processed in their respective ways they are then laid out to dry on the beds. After the coffees have completed their drying it is then time for their ‘resting period’.
The resting period will usually last anything up to 4 months but in some cases it can be longer. The coffee is taken from the washing stations to a (hopefully) well ventilated warehouse, washed coffees in and around Addis Ababa, and Naturals stay resting in their respective growing areas – this is due to certain regulations of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). It is a period of time which allows the coffee to mature and develop its flavours – If you are a green coffee buyer you will no doubt be aware of how the flavour of coffees can change from the first cupping to the end result, indeed many green coffee buyers have to learn to appreciate where a coffees flavour will grow and what they can hope to expect in the coming months as the coffee matures. Just before the coffee starts to rest, the first samples will be sent out to exporters and importers buying coffees in Ethiopia – these are known as Type Samples and although they can give a good idea of a coffees potential they are not seen as a 100% accurate sample of the coffee and buyers will not commit to a sale on a type sample alone although this can lead to people pre-contracting coffees.
Once the coffee has finished its resting period it is then time for it to be shipped. Whilst it has been sitting in the warehouse, exporters and buyers will have drawn samples directly from the Jute bags that the coffee is resting in, usually in specific lots or groups to help the buyers identify specific batches. These samples are called Stock Lots and will give potential buyers a better idea of what to expect from a coffee – this then leads to Purchase Orders and sales of the coffees. Once a coffee has been purchased it will then be hulled by a dry milling machine which rips off the dried skin and parchment covering the coffees.
This leaves coffee in its green bean state, the green beans then need to be sorted for defects – Each individual purchase order will dictate the level of defects expected in the coffee. The coffee can then be be put through a computer powered colour sorting machine which will remove defects such as insect damage, broken beans, foreign matter, sometimes peaberries and beans that have rotted. This is also often done by hand and eye, usually by a team of women – often their husbands will also work at the same mill and the seasonal work can be a good source of extra income. The coffee is now ready to be graded, sold and exported – or not! A Whopping 50% of coffee produced in Ethiopia is consumed internally!