Discovering Ethiopia, Part 1: Coffee Sourcing

This is the first post in a series about Zoka's recent coffee sourcing trip to Ethiopia. These are written by Peter McBride as he joined Jeff on his first coffee adventure.  We hope you Enjoy!

As a novice to Ethiopian sourcing trips, I’ll oversimplify things and say that much of the Ethiopia coffee market can be divided into two camps: co-operatives and private companies. Private farms provide a vast range of coffees, and the quality is consistent across large-scale operations, as they often own their own mills and processing plants. Everything is controlled to company standards from start to finish.

Co-ops, on the other hand, are a little more variable, and also quite a bit more fun for the coffee buyer (and drinker). During our time in Ethiopia, we visited several co-ops outside of Jimma, the largest city in southwest Ethiopia and a short flight from our home base in Adis Ababa.

Traveling in a 12-person van packed to capacity, we learned about changes to the local coffee market from Technoserve consultant Moate, who grew up and now lives with his family in Jima.  We drove out of Jima and about two hours into coffee country... single lane, dirt roads with little extra room for the local farmers walking cows to the market, or alongside donkeys saddled with firewood.

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Meeting with coffee farmers at the co-ops reminded Jeff and me of the importance of direct trade. Until you travel to the coffee farms and washing stations, you really have no idea what the farmers lives are like. To witness so much poverty alongside unparalleled generosity and hospitality was incredibly humbling. We were always treated as guests in someone’s home, never as mere visitors.

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It’s always nice to get great-tasting coffee but to buy from such wonderful people like the folks at Kossa Geshe Cooperative only reinforces our commitment to Direct Trade.

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