The zone of Guji has been getting particular attention over the last few years. This washing station in the Guji district in the kebele (neighborhood) of Benti Neka receives coffee from over 700 producers in the area. The small landholders in the area have properties ranging in altitude from 1850m to 2100m. These altitudes are actually a bit low compared to Yirgacheffe, the northern neighbor, and it is on average about 2 celsius degrees warmer in this area of Guji. This temperature difference likely impacts the coffee taste profile, however, it’s very difficult to pin down exactly how. Beginning with agriculture, which is mostly passive organic (almost natural forest-like), small-scale farms might have only 120 or so trees on their property to tend. A focused effort on spreading compost and dead-fall on each tree is very feasible. At harvest time, when it comes to picking, the family is all involved, and the cherry is laid out on the property after picking and before submission to the washing station. The coffee is picked through to ensure that only ripe cherry is included.
There are three main members of Wete Ambela Coffee, Mekuria Mergia, his wife Enatenesh Desalegn, and Elias Yifter. They have an office on the fourth floor of a building in the center of the capital city Addis Ababa. They have two washing stations, one at Wote Konga in Yirgachefe and another at Hambela in Guji, so the name Wete Ambela is a combination of the two places.
Wete Ambela Coffee is a startup founded in 2018 that benefited from the ease of the ECX regulation. The changes in ECX rules in 2017 made it relatively easier to obtain an export license that allowed direct trade under the system.
The number of independent producers has increased in Ethiopia. While the majority of Ethiopian coffee is produced in large lots in several hundred bags, many more will likely be labeled clearly with the name of the farm or producer attached, as is the case in Central America, and there will be more diversity in the processing methods and the variety of coffees.
Mekuria has solid connections among smallholders and access to quality coffee over the years. There is one thing that he has always valued to build a trusting relationship with producers. One of the most important things he has done is to build trust with producers; he created a good living environment for the smallholders.
The Ethiopian people are elegant in the way they carry themselves and their dresses are elegant, their way of life is simple and it doesn’t make you think about poverty. The most important things for them are money, food, and education. We take these things for granted every day, so we don’t see them as motivating us to work.
The washed (or parchment-dried coffee) process is widely used across Latin America and parts of East Africa. It involves the removal of the pulp and mucilage surrounding the parchment with the use of either friction or fermentation and large volumes of water. The most common practice of the various stages of this process is outlined below:
- Selectively harvested cherries do not require extensive quality control. After cherries have been loaded into a siphon, the uniformity of the degree of ripeness can be easily assessed. Water is used to separate floaters and to transport the cherries;
- Submerged cherries are transported to the pulper that forces the seeds out of the cherry by mechanical means. At this stage, the pulped beans are still covered with a mucilage layer that sticks to the parchment.
- The slimy mucilage is slowly removed by a process of fermentation, often under water. The fermentation time may vary according to ambient temperatures (i.e., 16 – 72 hours) and the process is completed once the mucilage is fully removed. Currently, there is a lot of experimentation on coffee farms with different fermentation protocols.
- Water is then used to stop fermentation by cleaning the parchment of microorganisms and organic matter. This water then drives the seeds toward drying facilities. In addition, beans can be separated in washing channels by density.
Drying of coffee is done on patios, raised African beds, or mechanical driers. The washed process is the most resource-intensive method of processing. It was developed in equatorial regions, where frequent rain required fast processing times.
Variety Mixed Heirloom
The Ethiopian Heirloom name is used to describe indigenous heirloom varieties resulting from cross-breeding between species and varietals rather than stemming from one particular variety. Ethiopia's local varieties are called “Ethiopian Heirloom” or Ethiopian heritage. Most Heirloom coffees are naturally occurring descendants of the Typica or Bourbon varietals of the Coffea Arabica species. It's estimated that Ethiopia is the home of several thousand different coffee varieties.