During the last week of November, I visited Kenya and Ethiopia looking for some fine green coffees for our premium and specialty segment. The harvest season started in both countries just a few weeks ago and it was a good time to get an idea of the quality and meet our partners and suppliers in person.
The journey began in Nairobi and a visit to the Kenyan coffee auction. Coffee farmers are organized in cooperatives and sell their production via marketing agents through this platform. Authorized traders have the opportunity to evaluate and cup the different lots prior. Once a week the auctions take place. Each lot is called individually, all information about origin, quality and price are accessible and the highest bid gets the business.
We went on to the coffee regions, many of which are located on the foothills of Mount Kenya. One cooperative I visited was Ngiriambi. With about 4,500 members, an average size for Kenyan cooperatives, they are processing coffee cherries in two washing stations. The cooperative is headed by Veronica, who as the general manager is responsibility for the daily business. The coffees grow at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,200 meters above sea level.
In general, the harvest in Kenya is developing well this season. After two years with too little rainfall, it has rained adequately this season. This ensures a higher share of large beans. The production volume has not yet fully recovered, so that the harvest is as big as last year.
The journey continued then to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, located at 2,350 meters above sea level. A whole new culture with equally friendly and warm people. What struck me immediately is how present coffee is in everyday life and how people everywhere sit in small cafes and drink a strong, dark roasted coffee. Local consumption in Ethiopia is the highest in East Africa. About half of the seven million bags produced each year in the country are consumed by the Ethiopians.
After one and a half days in Addis Ababa and numerous visits to the local exporters, I left the city heading south on the way to the Yirgacheffe and Sidamo regions.
The coffee farmers, mostly small farmers, bring their coffee after harvest to central washing stations. These washing stations have different capacities and produce about 1,500 to 5,000 bags of green coffee a year. Many of them as fully washed, but also naturals were often processed.
For wet preparation, the coffee cherries are pre-sorted by the farmers and then pulped in the washing station. In fermentation tanks, the coffee beans are stored between 12 and 16 hours. This is followed by the washing process in the washing channel. The coffee beans are sorted by their specific weight and then spread on the drying tables by quality and size. After an additional sorting by hand, the beans then dry between five and ten days, until they have only a residual moisture content of just 12 to 13%.
We expect a special selection of different coffees and look forward to sharing them with you soon.