Working in coffee in any producing country is like working in a shifting landscape, and for me no landscape shifts quite so much as Ethiopia. Still a magnificent landscape all the same.
This 2015/2016 season has been really exciting for us because of developments in our own business which have lent us far greater scope to explore and uncover the coffees of Ethiopia.
This year we have formally established NA Ethiopia as part of Nordic Approach, which encompasses our cupping lab and offices and two additional staff members along with Seife. The physical space and new team members give us the ability to gather far more samples without losing track of coffees becoming available, while responding quickly to suppliers to confirm interest in these coffees. So as coffees are delivered to the ECX or to the Unions we are able to access samples, roast and cup them ourselves and contract those we are interested in without losing out on them to others.
It also means we have a space to meet current and new producing partners, to cup their coffees with them the way we would cup in our lab in Oslo in terms of roast profile and water composition. So we can talk about what we value in the cup, and what we are tasting in their coffees. For me this is really important to bring the producers and suppliers of coffee into our dialogue about what is interesting and what we prefer in the coffee we buy over the coffee we don’t.
With this and the additional manpower we are now much better equipped to manage the outgoing logistics, meaning while we can continue to buy great coffee for our SPOT market and work on increasing our volumes without losing control of the initial quality or the timely arrival of these coffees. We can also offer coffees on a FOB basis (direct shipments from Ethiopia) to a far greater extent — if you’re able to take lots of 100 or more bags at a time, you can select your coffee, and we will manage the logistics of sending them directly to your nearest port.
This season in Ethiopia has also been exciting on a quality level, compared to last season, with an abundance of great coffees from every region. This year has seen a real comeback from the Southern (Yirgacheffe/Sidamo) coffees, which has been such a great source of excitement for me! The best of these coffees, with white florals and high notes popping out at you, and what I find to be like the structure of a great white Burgundy, are just incredible. We have also found great, juicy, fruit driven, cherry-blossom-like profiles with all their layers and complexity.
This means that choosing our Ethiopians was not a matter of choosing between good and bad cup quality but rather finding specific profiles within what has been available. This means that we have a wider range of profiles this year, and the different regions have been more on par with each other than last year. We have returning favorites from cooperatives in the West like Nano Challa, from long-time favorites like Hunkute and Bokasso in Sidamo, and new names and projects from Yirgacheffe and surrounding areas.
In addition, we have started this year to work with a family owned farm in the West, out past Djimma and through Limma Kossa. The farm is producing washed and natural coffees across a number of separated plots, which are varietal specific. The care with which they are maintaining their farm is so fantastic, I have barely seen cherries like these before. The profiles being produced are also very different. So look out for our “Lalo” lots and a soon to come blog profile on these coffees and their makers!