Inge is one of the owners of Back to Black coffee. Last June she made a trip to a few African countries, including Ethiopia. To see the beginning of the coffee chain with her own eyes, she visited a couple of dry mills and washing stations. In this blog she share her experiences with you.
Coffee is originally from Ethiopia. According to the stories, the coffeeberries are discovered in the woods of Kaffa, where nowadays it still grows in the wild. I would recognize Ethiopian coffee anywhere, because it is the most characteristic one.
African countries never appealed to me, since I only saw wars, poverty, famine, etc. in the media. I’m really happy that coffee brought me to Ethiopia, because it is stunning! Even though the people are poor, they smile a lot, have beautiful hairstyles and wear colourful clothes. On the top of that, they produce delicious coffee.
In the first few days, we spent our time in the capital city. We have visited 2 dry mills in Addis Ababa. The difference in quality between the dry mills was immense. One had a much better machine, was bigger, cleaner and more organized. A Swedish coffee importer was the reason for that. He is really doing his best to improve the quality of the Ethiopian coffee.
The third day we went out of town to visit a couple of coffee farms. Because of the bad roads in the south of Ethiopia, and even worse country roads to the farms and washing stations we needed to use a 4-wheel drive land cruiser. Adola washing station was the first one we visited, which is located in the city Adola, zone Gedeo and region Guji. Unlike European countries, Ethiopia has city’s, municipality’s, zones, regions and federations.
Adola washing station
In the evening we arrived at the washing station and I was quite surprised how outdated the huller was. The machine was already off, but they turned it on especially for us. During the restart it sounded like a plain was taking off and the huller started to shake heavily. For a moment I thought that it would explode, but it turned out to be normal.
A group of women was sitting outside on something which looked like a big veranda, where they were selecting the coffee. They also showed us their pulper, fermentation tanks and sluices were the coffee beans are fermented and washed. After they invited us to join a traditional Ethiopian dinner, followed by a coffee ceremony. After dinner the guide showed us a house under construction which is being built so future visitors of Adola washing station can stay the night. These developments are fantastic of course.
Bodgi washing station
The next day we went to Bodgi washing station in the village Bodgi, municipality Kochere, zone Gedeo and region Oromia. It was similar in comparing to the previous one, but it was bigger and cleaner. They had a tent with drying beds for the specialty coffee. The tent could be opened semi automatically, there were fans for an optimal airflow and for the nights a heat gun. You can see that the people are really doing their best and are very modern by Ethiopian standards.
The visits of the dry mills and washing stations were very special. We have seen how much work and time are used to produce green beans before I can roast them to make the recognizable brown coffee bean. I’m pretty familiar with the whole coffee chain, but seeing it on the spot with my own eyes made me appreciate it even more. It made me enjoy specialty coffee even more!