The Bulga cooperative was founded in 1976 as a mixed farming cooperative providing agricultural outreach in the Nensebo region including seeds, fertilizers and technical training. The cooperative has recently become a beneficiary of TechnoServe’s Ethiopian coffee initiative in conjunction with the broader Oromia Union. The project seeks to improve overall quality to ultimately fetch a higher price and improve farmer livelihoods.
Bulga is comprised of 330 individual members owning and operating an average of 1ha of land. Farmer’s land plots are generally mixed forest and coffee trees sitting an average altitude of 1,880 masl. Cooperative members selectively pick fully ripe red cherries and deliver to coop’s wet mill, the red cherry received by the coops is then soaked in the tanker filled with water to sort out some floating cherries before pulping. Normally pulping is done after sun set. As the cherry is pulped using a mechanical demucilager, there is no need for fermentation. The parchment is soaked in the soaking tank for about 6 hrs to remove any mucilage left on the parchment.
Before pulping all over ripe and immature green cherries will be sorted out on the cherry sorting table. Drying is done on 1.10m high raised drying table on mesh wire. The parchment will be covered during the overhead sun and night time. The parchment on the drying table will be frequently turned every 15 minutes for even drying.
The coffee growing region of Sidama is situated in the Great Rift Valley, of the south-central Ethiopian Highlands. This is a varied and expansive region, with a multitude of heirloom varieties grown by family households.
Elevations span from roughly 1700-2200 meters, with many different soil types and micro-climates represented. The complexity and diversity of coffees from Sidama make for an exciting and rewarding region to explore.
Ethiopia is the original home of the coffee plant, Coffea arabica. It was from this African country that the coffee was initially discovered and cultivated, thus setting into motion a long-standing tradition of both production and consumption. Ethiopia’s coffee accounts for about 60% of its foreign export income, and makes up for roughly 3% of the total worldwide coffee market. It is also the top producer in all of Africa.
Here, most coffee is still produced by hand, which gives many Ethiopian coffees a taste that has, in many other countries, been lost in time. Coffee has been produced in Ethiopia since at least the 10th Century, and very little about its method of production has changed since then.
Legend has it that coffee was originally discovered by a man named Kaldi, who worked by herding goats sometime around the 9th Century. However the story is anecdotal at best, as there is no written record of it until 1671. In any case, the legend continues on to say that Kaldi began to use coffee as a stimulant when he realised that eating the plant had made his goats unusually alert and energetic.
As coffee accounts for such a large amount of Ethiopia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Ethiopian Government has invested a large amount of its resources into supporting coffee trade and export. Ethiopia itself owns the trading names of many of its provincial coffees, including Harar, Limu, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, thus allowing only coffees grown and produced in those respective regions to bear the names.