This exceptional fully washed coffee was grown by smallholder farmers living around the Woreda (County) of Gera in Jimma Zone, Oromia Region. The coffee is collected from farmers and brought to the Kecho Anderacha Washed Coffee Processing Centre, before being sold to Primrose S.P PLC via the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX). In this instance, Primrose, our partner in the region, is responsible for dry milling and exporting the final product.
The region of Jimma is well known for its important role in Ethiopian coffee. Home to the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC) since the 1960s, JARC has worked to develop resistant and tasty varieties for the Ethiopian coffee industry and also to provide the agricultural extension training needed to cultivate them. Although Jimma is the politically defined name for the region, the name Limmu is used to describe the regions coffee flavourprofilefound in both Jimma and the neighbouring zone of Illubabor: noted for being a clean cup with a subtle citric acidity. To prevent further confusion as to which zone particular Limmu coffees originatefrom,The ECX categorisesLimmu coffees from Jimma as A, and Illubabor as B. This means Woreda’s such as in this case, Gera, are classed as Limmu Zone A.
Around 85 per cent of Ethiopians still live rurally and make a living from agriculture; each family usually lives in a modest home (often a single round mud hut) and farms their plot of land, where they grow both cash crops and food for their own consumption. In Jimma, coffee is one of the main cash crops, often known as ‘garden coffee’ –covering from half a hectare to 1.5 hectares (the latter is considered big). This is usually planted alongside a second cash crop –often a large-leafed tree used in making roofs for (and also shade provider for the coffee) known as 'false banana' (Enset). This looks like a banana tree but isn't -instead its thick stem is used to produce both a nutritious flour and a fermented paste that are staple ingredients (particularly across southern Ethiopia). Other subsistence crops planted include; sweet potato, papaya and avocado.
Income from coffee is important but minimal for most farmers,due to the small size of their farms. As such, inputs are minimal –most coffee grown in the region is 100% organic, though not certified, as farmers simply don’t have the money to apply chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Primrose ensures that there are agricultural officers who work closely with each farmer to ensure the fertility of the farmland.
Farmers in the region are susceptible to a number of challenges, namely; an ageing generation of coffee trees, negative effects of climate change and fluctuations in the coffee marketprice. Climate change, in particular, is having difficult repercussions, as fluctuating season’s effects harvesting, as well as unexpected rainsincreasing the length of the drying process. Fortunately, local initiatives are attempting to combat these problems. Working with agricultural development agents, farmers in the region are finding new support to help combat climate change as well as plant new coffee and shade trees, helping to improve the sustainable production of coffee in the area, as well as support the local ecosystem.
Regarding market price fluctuations, stakeholder organisations are working to pay a fair price to farmers for their coffee production. Primrose pay more than the market price for a kilogram of red cherry, and those farmers that bring quality red cherry are paid a cash incentive, ensuring higher-than-average overall quality.
There is only one main harvest a year in Ethiopia -this usually takes place in November and December across all of the country's growing regions. There are, on average, 4 passes made during the harvest period and in regions that produce both washed and naturals, the last pass is used for the natural coffee.
Coffee is selectively hand-picked before being delivered to the mill collection points, usually within 7 km of the producer’s homes. Here, lots are separated by quality, producer and date of production. At the mill, the cherry is floated and sorted by hand; separating any overripe, under-ripe or damaged bean.
Once separated, the coffee is mechanically pulped. Washed coffees are generally pulped on the same day that they are picked (usually in the evening/night) and sorted into three grades by weight (heavy, medium and floaters). Next, the cherry is placed into a concrete tank, where it will ferment for between 48 to 72 hours. Once the fermentation is complete, the coffee is washed via grading channel, separating the coffee by quality as well as removing any remaining mucilage.
The beans are next delivered to raised beds to dry. Here, they are hand-sorted, usually by women, before being thinly spread to dryevenly. Beans are regularly turned over the course of several weeks, or until it reaches 12% humidity according to the moisture metre. Finally, the coffee is transported to Primrose's dry mill and warehouse in Addis Ababa city. Here coffee is dry milled, removing; foreign material, remaining parchment, and defected beans, ready for export.