This stunning Natural process Grade 1 Ethiopia coffee comes from carefully selected farms in operation around the Kochere District. This particular coffee is grown in a town called Shifo. This particular lot of coffee is not pulped and is sun-dried with the pulp on. Only fully ripe cherries are handpicked and are sun-dried on raised drying beds. At the processing plant there are about 120 raised beds for drying the coffee. It usually takes about 3 weeks to dry the coffee, however it sometimes varies depending on the weather conditions. The cherry has to be turned regularly, to ensure even drying.
At first glance Yirgacheffe’s hills look thickly forested – but in fact it is a heavily populated region and the hills are dotted with many dwellings and villages’ growing what is known as ‘garden coffee’. There are approximately 26 cooperatives in the region, representing some 43,794 farmers and around 62,004 hectares of garden coffee. The production is predominantly washed, although a smaller amount of sundried coffees also come out of Yirgacheffe.
Aside from its near-legendary status as the “birthplace” of Arabica coffee, there is much to love about Ethiopia as a producing nation, including but not limited to the incredible diversity of flavour and character that exists among micro-regions, specifically within this southwestern Gedeo Zone of Yirgacheffe whereas whose names alone conjure thoughts of the finest coffees in the world. Coffee was literally made to thrive in the lush environment Yirgacheffe’s forests provide, developing nuanced floral characteristics, articulate sweetness and sparkling acidity.
One of the great things about Ethiopian coffees is the complete mix of varietals. It is estimated that somewhere between six thousand and ten thousand varieties exist naturally in these highlands, the origin of coffee – The cross pollination of genetics is totally amazing.
Around 85 percent 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 own plot of land, where they grow both cash crops and food for their own consumption. In Yirgacheffe, coffee is one of the main cash crops – 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’. 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).
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. Washed coffees are then generally pulped on the same day that they are picked (usually in the evening/night), sorted into three grades by weight (heavy, medium and floaters), fermented (times vary – usually between 16 and 48 hours), washed and then usually graded again in the washing channels. The beans are then dried on African beds, where they are hand-sorted, usually by women.