After the coffee has been grown, picked, washed (or not), dried and sorted it is now almost ready for export! When the coffee leaves the washing stations – if it is heading to the Ethiopian Commodity (ECX) it will be the ECX who grade the coffee prior to accepting the coffee for storage before auctioning. The grading system used by the ECX splits Ethiopian coffees into grades 5 main grades – 1-5 and Under Grade which is sold to the huge domestic market here in Ethiopia.  Many larger producers and co-operatives now export their own coffees and will sometimes give the coffee a different grade to what the ECX has given. This is because the ECX and its graders – although the one of the main authorities of coffee within Ethiopia – are sometimes considered not correct or inexperienced in their grading by private exporters – especially in terms of Specialty Coffee and so the producers may sell the coffee as they think fair depending on the quality of the coffee in question. But we will talk more about the ECX another time.

Smiles all around whilst searching for defected coffees at Kanketi’s Haru Washing Station in Yirgacheffe

Once Graded the coffee is ready for cupping by buyers, sourcing companies and exporters so decisions can be made on where it should end up. We, here at Tropiq Ethiopia will receive many samples from different producers, exporters and Co-operatives by which we will make an assessment and decide which coffees best suit our clients needs at the time. After approval from the Tropiq team we will offer our buyers samples of coffees we that we think would work well for them and their needs. This involves many coffees being sent abroad for people to cup as well as many buyers travelling to the Tropiq HQ in Addis Ababa to cup the coffees with us and make decisions on what they want to buy this season.

Cupping samples at our lab in Addis with customers

Once a coffee has been chosen it is then contracted with the exporter and usually paid for by by  a letter of credit (LC) or by a prepayment against contract. In most cases – all with us at Tropiq-  the coffee will be shipped on a free on board (FOB) contract meaning that the buyer is responsible for organizing shipping and insurance etc once the coffee has arrived at the port – Djibouti. The lesser used contractional option is costs, insurance, freight (CIF) whereby the seller will cover all of the costs to get the coffee to the destination but this method of sale is less often used now.

The final step before the coffee is shipped is processing and bagging. The washed coffees will first be hulled and then, along with the naturals, will be ‘cleaned’ at a dry mill in Addis Ababa. Coffee sorters are still largely employed in Ethiopia although many producers/ exporters are now using Dry Mills with computerised colour sorters which will remove defected coffee. This modernising change is not so much due to cost rather than speed and accuracy. Depending on the contract the coffee will be sorted to a particular level of defects (0-2 defects per 300g for example).

Natural coffee being hulled in Jimma – before it departs for Addis

FINALLY – after the months of growing, picking, processing, drying, resting, cupping, hulling and cleaning the coffee is now ready for bagging and shipping. The coffee is loaded into food grade jute bags which carry 60kg of coffee each and have the correct import/ export customs details printed on each bag – in the specialty market however sealed plastic Grain Pro bags are more often used. They also hold 60kg and are placed inside the Jute Bags as a safer way to to transport the coffee as the Jute bags are not very good at stopping alien liquids, smells and insects getting into the coffee. The final step is to load the bags of coffee into a lined shipping container that will hold 300 bags over all. After that, the coffee leaves the mill and heads to a roaster near you!

Full coffee warehouse – coffee resting until it is ready for export