WOW. "Why", I've asked myself, "did I wait so long for my first trip to Ethiopia?" It is, after all, the birthplace of coffee and the origin of several of my most favorite coffees. Well...I've had excuses. Now, however, I know that there was NO good excuse. Should'a Would'a, Could'a.
I'm hugely grateful to Sheridan, Gerra, Tsion and all the folks at InterAmerican Coffee/ Neumann Kaffe Gruppe for setting up the trip, making all the in-country arrangements and hosting us around. It was a wonderful trip, packed full of learning and tasting and adventure. I look forward to seeing everyone again in April at SCAA in Atlanta!
I'll write more later and I'll put together a slide show for inclusion in our Lifelong Learning Series. Meanwhile, here is a quick list of highlights and things to experience 1st hand if you go:
Traditional coffee ceremony - they are everywhere, morning, noon and night. Be sure to allow time for the whole experience: roasting, incense, grinding, brewing and service.
ECX - The Ethiopian Coffee Exchange - A fairly new institution and one that may not be around forever. Still, It's a kick to see buyers and sellers in the trading pit slap a high five to seal a deal.
Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) - Representing over 200,000 coffee farming families, the modern headquarters complex in Addis Ababa is an impressive testament to the value of collaboration.
Traffic - don't rent a car! You are bound to either 1) panic and get nowhere, or 2) kill somebody or their goat. Instead, hire one of the many reputable in-country transport companies and ride in style. We found the Toyota Land Cruisers, and Alem, our driver to be a huge benefit, getting around.
Yirga Cheffe region/village - Oh man, what a ride. 13 hours on the worst roads imaginable. If you've got a bad back, you might want to miss this trip. With the right drivers and host, it's not to be missed. We stopped several times along the way to shop and visit. Met farming families and co-op managers. There will be friendly, but real competition among us roasters for the produce of the KONGA co-op coffees we found.
Amaro Gayo - Our hostess, Asnakech Thomas is a force of nature. Her Estate in the Sidamo region produces some of the finest semi-washed coffees you will find and she is a delight. Organic and local to her core, her influence on coffees in the region reaches well beyond her own estate.
Ayehu Farm; Horizon Plantations PLC - A wide ranging agricultural giant, their coffee holdings are the largest in Africa. Research and modern environmental management co-existing with traditional growing, harvesting and processing methods. Here is an example of the best of the old, married to the best of the new.
BahirDar, Gondar and the Zege Penninsula - Emperor's castles and 14th century Monasteries. Tourist highlight reels abound in this area 600 Kilometers Northwest of Addis and on the shores of Lake Tana. The coffees in the Zege area were still mostly green (unripe) and totally wild, growing in forest so deep that sun ripening was weeks behind the rest of Ethiopia. As an added bonus, we got wet from the spray of the headwaters of the Blue Nile, on their way to Egypt.
Watch our social media for more stories and photos soon. Also, check in at Vienna Coffee House next month where we will unveil a special treat; The legendary Gesha varietal, produced as a rare natural processed Gesha on the Bebeka farm, just outside of Gesha village where it all began!