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Ethiopia – December, 2008

Ethiopia 2nd Harvest Review

First off, the Ethiopian government has instituted a new trade format called EthEx. Essentially this is a commodity exchange to which all non-farm owner exporters and cooperatives will have to trade their lots. Identity and therefore traceability are potentially lost in this format. The Ethiopian government has managed to find yet another way to mess up everything that good willed companies like Stumptown are trying to accomplish. The Ethiopian government’s perspective is that not enough Ethiopian coffee is sold as specialty vs. commodity and that this will somehow correct this to some degree. I say it takes all the steam out of the engine we’ve finally created some momentum with. Ethiopian coffee farmers have finally been given some incentive to do the job properly and it’s come from the private companies with our support. Without identity we have no cause to continue working the way we do.

All of the private washing stations we work with are holding out hope that they’ll be able to petition for specialty grade coffee to become exempt from this commodity exchange. We are working rigorously with them to make this happen and we all feel confident that Stumptown’s Ethiopian coffee will continue to be traded in transparent fashion. More to come as the harvest and this issue evolve.

On to the positive side of things. The harvest is down a bit from last year but the ripening is better than I’ve ever seen! Clearly the second flowering this past spring must have been gloriously strong. Trips out to Tega + Tula and Mordecofe were ultra-impressive (more later on that). Not only were branches evenly ripe but entire trees and areas of the farms were as well. The peak of the harvest is coming around Christmas time and what a gift it will be. As long as the washing stations have ample capacity, this will be a harvest for the ages, quality-wise.

My first stop was out to Tega + Tula and I was blown away by Membratu Kidane’s commitment to cherry selection this year. He is taking his game to a new level. My first trip out to Mordecofe was an arduous one but well worth my while. Haile Gebre has created something special out there and we’re going to do our best to make him famous for it. Look for them both at a Stumptown near you in late April. Yup, that’s right, Ethiopia ‘Meet the Producer’ headed to the Pacific Northwest. Check back for source reports pertaining to both farms and Yirgacheffe as well. coming in the next few days.