WHAT'S GOING ON IN ETHIOPIA?
We are not going to tell you that everything is hunky-dory in Ethiopia, that everything is perfect, that the coffee farmers are happy, or that the future is bright, because that is certainly not true. While there have been improvements in the humanitarian situation caused by the war, the economic and climatic situation is only getting worse. Temperatures are rising and rainfall is falling in a pattern that could lead to a 25% drop in production by 2030, and inflation is hitting hard, reaching 34% per annum last December.
For a coffee importer, (I think we all share the same opinion) Ethiopia is the most challenging origin, but at the same time the most rewarding in terms of travel experience and coffee quality. Quality is part of the establishment, from a genetic and terroir perspective Ethiopia is always expected to have unique, complex and intense cup profiles, but there are problems related to human intervention that do not allow these high expectations to be realised.
ETHIOPIA: Origin update 2022
Coffee is a biennial cycle crop, which means that coffee trees have high productivity in one harvest and low production in the next, due to the plant's need for recomposition. This phenomenon has a greater influence on coffee of the Arabica species, and a greater economic impact on those origins that have only one harvest a year, as is the case in Ethiopia.
During the 2022 harvest in Ethiopia, production was affected by a negative biennial cycle, where flowering decreased due to the need of the plant to recompose itself after a very productive period last harvest 2021.
Ethiopia exported 148,882 tons of coffee during the first six months of the current marketing year from August 21 to January 22, generating $578 million, 20% more than projected, according to the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Authority.
Germany was the major importer of the highly-sought beans for the period followed by Saudi Arabia and Japan. This is important, because there are 5 different grades that are allowed to be exported from Ethiopia, so we need to understand the difference between them.
Cupping coffees without having any origin info, would be nonsense, right? We can't understand a coffee if we do not know its origin and to really know an origin, we must first try to understand its culture, read its history, listen to its music and observe the state of its political system. There's no other way.
It is the same with many other situations in life, everything is a consequence of something anterior, a reaction of a previous action. This "Newtonian" plot is everywhere, and no matter how hard we try to untangle it, hits our unsophisticated sense of perception like an apple falling on one’s head, preventing us from understanding its full scope and impact.
To be or not to be ... The diversity of possible cup profiles is practically infinite, as coffee is a living product, many times we find flavours, aromas or sensations that we cannot associate with past experiences. And this is particularly true with experimental processed lots.
But from a professional and objective point of view, are all coffees with experimental processes good coffees?
THE ETHIOPIAN CHALLENGE
Not long ago I was listening on a podcast, to a "celebrity" of the specialty coffee industry, saying that the most difficult country where to work was Kenya. This seemed nonsense to me, because without a doubt, for anyone who has worked in Africa for a sufficient period of time, will say that the most difficult origin to work is undoubtedly Ethiopia, with light years of difference. And with this I am not saying that Kenya is all peaches and cream, because is not, but what I mean is that Ethiopia is too complex.
It should be noted that with this article, I do not intend to establish a cultural superiority on the part of the West to the detriment of the third world, as it is commonly called. I firmly believe that there is no culture superior to another, however they are all different, each with its positive side and its flaws. I do not agree with the kind of superiority that some feel when they come to Africa "advising" how to live, what is the best solution to problems, and even how to grow and process coffee. Africa must find its own solutions!
ROASTING NATURALS: ETHIOPIA
As we all know, roasting high density coffees is difficult, but roasting high density dry process coffees is even more so!
What should you keep in mind to start developing your own killer roasting profile for natural coffees?
1º THE DENSITY OF THE LOT
During the washing process, there are many more opportunities for selection and grading than in the natural process. Although, lately in origins such as Ethiopia and Burundi, where there are cooperatives focusing on quality, they have begun to introduce hand selection and flotation grading, prior to the drying of the cherries on patios or African beds.
WHAT DOES "HEIRLOOM" MEANS?
According to the Cambridge dictionary, the word "Heirloom" has the following meanings:
1.- valuable object that older members of a family have given to younger members of the same family for many years.
2.- a fruit, plant or seed of a type, which has existed for many years.
From a botanical point of view, the definition of an heirloom variety establishes that this must be open-pollinated. Arabica coffee is a self-pollinated crop, so from the very beginning the definition of heirloom doesn’t apply to Arabica coffee.
POLITICS AND COFFEE IN ETHIOPIA
The word "Politics" (ancient Greek: πολιτικός politikós) means: "for or related to citizens". In very simple terms, it is the process of making decisions that apply to all members of a certain group.
In producing countries (which are almost all very poor), coffee is a fundamental part of the life of its inhabitants and the country's Gross Domestic Product. Therefore, the future and decisions of the coffee industry will always be influenced by a more general vision of a group of politicians, who without having the expertise or without seeking proper advice, decide what "they believe best" for a group of people or coffee farmers, which are ultimately the "heart" that pumps the money into the economy of a coffee producing country.
The history of coffee in Indonesia
Indonesia was the third country in the world to grow coffee for commercial purposes after Ethiopia and Yemen.
The history of coffee in Indonesia, as in many others producing countries around the world, begins with tales of colonialism, slavery, monopoly and multinational corporations (Yes! The first ones of modern history were set in the early 17th century).