Field Notes from Ethiopia

Ethiopia is like no other coffee origin. This is Ally Coffee’s sixth harvest working with our partners Tracon Trading, and what we learned and shared on our January trip has us more excited than ever to be sourcing coffee from such a special place.

The trip began with a visit to the Hafursa Washing Station in Yirgacheffe, where many of the microlots for our Single Producer Program are processed. The goal of the program is to bring more focus to the smallholders who grew each lot of exceptional coffee, a challenge we are ready to take on with renewed energy for a second year.< Seid Ali (right) is one of the program’s facilitators. Cris Mourao, Alemayheu Dagne, and Ricardo Pereira with Hafursa team.

The leaders running Hafursa are as eager to process coffee that exceeds expectations for specialty as producers are to deliver it. The mill’s operations are already some of the most careful, making that extra step towards specialty a natural transition.Hand sorting coffee at Hafursa

At peak harvest, Hafursa has 250 drying beds on the washing station’s property. As the harvest wanes, the staff breaks these beds down one by one to preserve the materials, which are stored safe from weather to better maintain them for future seasons.Hafursa drying beds desconstructed after the harvest.

Long poles form the edges of the beds and lattice is placed across them to support the drying cherries.

Farmers participating in the Single Producer Program are proud to put their name on the coffee they grow and are ready to comply with the mill’s procedures for quality control. Coffee quality starts on the farm, is perfected in the mill, and preserved in the warehouse.

In a blind cupping of lots from Tracon’s many washing stations, we selected both the Biloya and Chelelektu for a second year based on cup quality. We look forward to working the the same washing stations again.

The microlots, washing station lots, and the Acacia Ethiopia Core Coffees Ally sources through Tracon all pass through their main dry mill in Addis Ababa (which now includes a second milling line of all new equipment and sorting technology, but more about that in a minute). Each bag of coffee from the Single Farmer program will be tagged with a label including the lot details and the grower’s photo to ensure traceability all the way to the landed warehouse and your roastery.Traceability tags for Single Producer lots.

Another development is the use of natural fiber bags from Brazil, making this year’s lots from Tracon some of the most exceptionally packed Ethiopian coffees available. New printing equipment will also make bag marks cleaner, crisper, and easier to read. Clearer marks and better packing materials are two of the ways Ally puts our motto into action and finds solutions to move the coffee industry forward.

The harvest for this year is complete; not a cherry is left on the trees and the warehouses are full of Washed coffee resting before it ships. The Tracon dry mill in Addis is newly outfitted with screen, densimetric, and color sorting equipment. The second line of hulling equipment will speed up dry milling, an important step when increasing the number of microlots, which each take more time to prepare for shipment.Tracon’s dry mill in Addis Ababa.

Rahel, Ally’s Buyer for Africa, is based out of her office inside Tracon’s mill and from there she manages samples and quality control. This year’s harvest will include fresh offerings from the Biloya and Chelelektu Washing Stations as well as our Core Coffee from Ethiopia — the Acacia — available in both Washed and Natural. From our longest Ethiopia sourcing partnership, the Koke Washing Station, we will again offer three styles of processing: Honey, Washed, and Natural.

Microlots from our Single Producer program will be available again too, bringing more returns and recognition to individual farmers and their families.

We look forward to sharing this year’s harvest with you. Contact your Account Manager or fill out the form on our website for more information.Photos by James Tooill and Cris Mourao for Ally Coffee.

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