JOE GOES TO ETHIOPIA

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Back in November last year, production roaster Joe was lucky enough to travel out to Ethiopia with our African import specialists Schluter. Now, this may seem like quite a long wait before publishing his account of his experience but we thought that since Ethiopia season is now in full swing, the time is ripe. Like a coffee cherry. Over to you Joe: It’s hard to over emphasise Ethiopia’s importance to the history of coffee and humankind, it seems both were destined to be thrown together and inextricably linked.

The Coffea Arabica tree (the beans of which we at small batch buy, as opposed to Robusta) is indigenous to the country and is the origin of all other varietals that have since been created through cross pollination or splicing by farmers and scientists around the world. So for me, as a first trip out to any origin country, I was pretty excited that it was to be Ethiopia. On the overnight flight to Addis Ababa I was sat, by a happy coincidence, in between two NGO workers specialising in agriculture in Ethiopia. I didn’t get much sleep as I was too busy learning as much as I could and picking their brains! On arrival I met the guys from Schluter, a small coffee exporter that have a long history in the country.

We then headed straight to their office in central Addis, pushing through heaving traffic, and having that brilliant feeling of being somewhere completely new. We did a quick tasting of some early crop coffee before our driver arrived to take us the 8 hours or so south to the coffee growing regions of Sidamo. Driving even long journeys on Ethiopian roads is never boring, up there with some of the most dangerous roads in the world; basically anything can happen. We had seven flat tyres in the course of our trip, witnessed many horrendous looking scenes of accidents and generally wore out the horn by trying to get goats, donkeys, children and adults out of the way. Forget about Stop, Look and Listen, people in the countryside actively walk out in front of cars as it is incomprehensibly deemed “good luck”.

Debora Soares