Mustefa Abakeno is a smallholder with 18 hectares of land near Agaro in the Jimma Zone of Western Ethiopia. His farm is located at 2,040masl and is planted with coffee varieties from the Jimma research centre. Due to a lack of water in the area and limited space to ferment the coffee, Mustefa ferments the pulped coffee for a short period (8 hours) before he moves it to his drying beds (for 13-16 days), and the result is something like a light honey. The naturals take 24-27 days to dry on the African (raised) beds.
Kabira is made up of two Heirloom sub varieties, 74110 (Gibirinna) and 74112 (Serto) , the origins of which can be traced back to the parent plant from the Metu-Bishari forest of the Illubabor Zone - Western Ethiopia in 1970's.
Selected for their resistance to coffee berry disease & overall yield, they are now some of the most propagated varieties in Ethiopia.
In 2020, Mustefa acquired a second washing station, Kabira, to receive cherries from local producers. Due to subtle differences in location and microclimate & the added space for drying beds, Kabira is more suited to processing naturals, this is why the lots are named after the washing stations where they were processed.
Among coffee-producing countries Ethiopia holds near legendary status, not only because it’s the “birthplace” of Arabica coffee, but also because it’s simply unlike any other place in the coffee world.
The vast majority of coffee growing countries had the plant introduced as a cash crop through colonization. Whilst in Ethiopia growing, processing & drinking coffee has been part of everyday life for centuries, since the trees were discovered growing wild in forests & eventually cultivated.
The majority of Ethiopia’s farmers are smallholders & subsistence farmers, with less than 1 hectare of land apiece. In many cases it is almost more accurate to describe the harvests as a “garden coffee,” as the trees do sometimes grow in more of a garden or forest environment, rather than what we imagine a farm to look like.
There are some large, privately owned estates & co-operative societies comprising a mix of small & more mid-size farms, but the average producer here grows relatively very little for commercial sale.
“Garden coffee” is brought by a farmer, in cherry form, to the closest or most convenient washing station, where it is sold & blended with other farmers’ lots for processing according to the desires of that washing station.
Co-op members bring their coffee cherries to be received & weighed at a co-operative washing station. There is more trace-ability back to the producer as they are registered members of the co-operative.
The flavour profile of Ethiopian coffees will vary based on a number of factors including variety, process & micro-region.
As a general rule of thumb natural processed coffees will have much more pronounced fruit & deep chocolate tones, often with a bit of a 'winey' characteristic & a syrupy body.
Washed coffees will be lighter & have more pronounced acidity, although the individual characteristics will vary.
The genetic diversity of Ethiopian coffee is unmatched globally.
This gives rise to beautiful & complex flavour profiles.
No other coffees are spoken of with more reverence, or romance.
In Ethiopia coffee is commonly enjoyed as part of a “ceremonial” preparation; a way of gathering around a table for conversation & community.
The most senior-woman of the household roasts the coffee in a pan & grinds it fresh, before mixing it with hot water in a brewing pot called a Jebena.
She serves the strong liquid in small cups, then adds fresh boiling water to brew the coffee two more times.
The process takes about an hour from start to finish & is considered to be a show of hospitality & society.
Growing Regions - Sidama (including Yirgacheffe), Harrar, Limu, Djimma, Lekempti, Wallega, Gimbi
Common Varieties - Heirloom Ethiopian varieties including Kudhome, Gesha, Djimma, and others
Processing Method/s - Washed, Natural
Population Involved in Coffee - Approx. 700,000
Average Farm Size - 1 hectare or less
Bags Exported Annually - 3.5 million bags