We begin our journey at dawn in Addis Abba, set off 400 km south to the Guji zone to visit two Woredas (districts) where some washing stations we source coffee from are located. As we drive towards the Great Rift Valley, recent investment is evident in the surrounding infrastructure of Addis Ababa as it has vastly been improved since our last visit. In the Great Rift Valley we see incredible diversity of wildlife through the car window: Pelicans, Ostriches, Marabou Storks, Flamingos and Camels. During a stop next to Lake Awassa we even sight Hippos, Fishing Eagles and the incredible African Paradise Flycatcher.
At Adola washing station we are greeted by Israel Degafa, owner of Kerchanshe and Kamba. The Washing station site is Certified Organic, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade. Kerchanshe’s standard company policy for all washing stations is against forced labour, child labour, deforestation, poaching, sexual harassment and discrimination. We settle in our beautiful home for the next few nights with a dinner of locally sourced fresh foods including injera of course and beautiful cultural entertainment.
Most of the coffee in Ethiopia is grown on small family owned farms that are handed down through generations and use different types of farming methods depending on the landscape. The farm we visited in the Adola region utilised the Forest Garden Coffee (FGC) farming system. FGC grown coffee is grown amongst shade trees, with intercropping and interventional weeding. It also had variety of older and younger trees amongst other crops and old trees. Israel explains he encourages farmers to plant seedlings which he provides for free from the local nursery to create a diverse range of coffee trees. He also offers financial compensation to the farmers as the trees grow so the farms are not holding onto aged low-yielding trees that they don’t want to remove due to loss of income as seedlings grow for two seasons. Farms in this region are fertilised with organic materials and the soil is red clay littered with forest humus which is mixed to create compost. The belief among local farmers being that the use of chemical fertilisers will poison the land and their crops. With intercropping, farmers also grow a variety of crops including grains and various fruits for supplementary income. Dr. Tadesse Woldemariam Gole: one of the authors of the Coffee Atlas of Ethiopia, spent time with us on this trip explained that the main coffee varieties from this area were introduced by the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC ) in the late 1970s such as the variety 74110, but nonetheless there are hundreds of native wild varieties too. The coffee is all harvested by hand into baskets with the ripe berries being selected for the first harvest, we got to pick some of the last cherries of the season off the trees.
Adola washing station is situated at 1700 metres above sea level, and cherries are collected from the local small farms, these coffee trees are grown from 1500 metres to 2500 metres. The site processes both specialty and commercial grade coffees. The specialty natural processed coffees are dried for 15 to 18 days with additional spacing on African beds and have the utmost care taken with moisture readings as it dries. There is constant aeration around the cherries as they dry, and the coffee is turned by hand frequently to prevent defects from moisture. The coffee is covered at midday to shield it from UV rays and covered during rainfall and overnight to prevent exposure to moisture. The commercial coffees are also important to the local smallholders as they want to sell their full production to the washing station. The commercially produced natural coffees are laid onto a large concrete patio floor space to dry in the open air and do not have rain cover, aeration or UV protection. Israel visited Brazil with Kamba and was able to make connection with coffee machinery experts in Espírito Santo do Pinhal, and since then we have helped import mechanical driers to Adola. The mechanical drier is being installed during this visit but once operational, will save hundreds of kilograms of coffee cherries that were previously getting damaged or destroyed. The new addition of Brazilian machinery will have a positive impact in maintaining consistent quality throughout the grades of coffee in increasingly unpredictable weather.
Anasora washing station is situated even higher at elevation 2300 meters, sourcing cherries from local smallholders. Israel also owns a private coffee farm that produces exclusively for this site too. The washing station features modern facilities: a de-pulping machine, flotation tanks, water channels and a variety of African raised beds with mesh and coverings which were constructed in 2018. At this site producing only specialty grade coffees: washed, natural, honey, and experimental techniques. We have sourced a phenomenal coffee from this washing station this year which we call Anasora Semi-Carbonic Maceration in which the cherries were sourced from Israel’s farm at this site. The coffee cherries are enclosed in holding tanks for 24-72 hours, the time the cherries are held in the tanks depends on the ambient temperature that is monitored closely until the coffees are at optimum sweetness and not overly fermented.
Both sites we visited have local schools that are supported by Kerchanshe and provide primary education for the local community, and also share the latest farming knowledge for adult groups in the community as the aim is to consistently improve farming and processing methods without damage to the environment. We visited a school to discuss future upgrades to local infrastructure and were welcomed by the staff and students. Future projects for this school include a water pump site for consistent fresh clean drinking water and connection to electricity. The children were excited to receive gifts of workbooks, art supplies and games from our group.
Deep into our journey the density of forest increases as we near the Guji zone we encounter one of the major issues faced by east African agriculture at the moment as billions of locusts fill the sky. This phenomenon sets locals into a panic as the locusts can destroy hundreds of acres of crops in a single day. The solution is to light many fires creating smoke and shoot fireworks into the air to scare the locusts off with the noise. It’s believed that the locusts drifted down from Yemen, but luckily none feasted on the coffee or other crops.
On our journey back to Addis Ababa we saw the new direct freight electric rail that runs to Djibouti Port, which offers a significant improvement in logistics services for coffee exports as coffees were previously being looted from trucks on the long road journey to Djibouti port.
On the visit to the dry mill just out of Addis Ababa we saw all the new technology Kerchanshe has built into a modern processing facility, the technology used here is to removed defects like stones and sticks, sort beans with density sorter and to efficiently bag coffee into 60 kg Grainpro bags. The recent advancements in the modern technology will mean there will be increased accuracy and quality of the coffees being prepared in the final stages prior to export that put Kerchanshe’s coffee of world class level.
We are offering the following coffees in 2020 please get in touch for samples:
Bale Mountain Natural
Bale Mountain Washed
Anasora Farm Natural
Debeka Farm Natural
Galana Geisha Farm Natural
Anasora Semi-Carbonic Maceration
Womens Washing Station Washed Sidamo