Last month we visited Kenya and Ethiopia. It was so wonderful to be back since our last visits pre-pandemic.
Our first stop was a long overdue catch up with the Thiriku coffee growers in Nyeri; we started working with the Thiriku group in 2021 and over the last two years we have come to enjoy the coffee’s redcurrant and plum jam flavours. We were welcomed by the farmers at the coop washing station. Located at 1900m the group has now grown to 1800 members, producing 500,000 kg of SL28 coffee cherry. The region of Nyeri has unfortunately been suffering a lack of rainwater and dry weather during the growing period and the group are planning to store more water on the land during the rainy season, which could be of help during the harvest for processing. We are now moving into our third year with Thiriku and can’t wait to have the new crop back!
We left Nyeri and headed south of Mount Kenya towards Kirinyaga where Alvans Mutero was waiting for us at his beautiful Mutero farm. We first bought coffee from Alvans last summer and were very impressed. For months we enjoyed its blackberry, sugar cane juice flavours and fresh acidity; now it was time to meet the producer behind the coffee. Alvans has a beautiful farm where he grows 6,000 trees of the SL28 variety planted on six hectares of land, all orderly intertwined with banana, casava, macadamia and avocado trees. He also has a small dairy plot with three cows and plenty of manure which is then composted with coffee pulp and fallen leaves, to be used as fertiliser for his coffee. Using his farm-made fertiliser will help with keeping his nutrition costings down. Alvans is a second-generation coffee producer; he inherited and learned coffee growing from his parents. The mature trees in some parts of the farm were planted by his father 40 years ago and continue to produce exceptional coffee.
We were lucky enough to be able to taste the first milling samples from Thiriku and Mutero and they were delicious. We left Kenya in high spirits; the harvest had finished,and the coffees are being prepared for shipping in a month or so.
Trabocca’s new office and lab in Addis was our centre of operations in Ethiopia. The team is led by Michael Bekele. We had the opportunity to try the new crop of traditional washed and honey lots from Tesfaye Bekele’s farm Suke Quto. We have been working with Tesfaye since 2016. In Guji he runs the Suke Quto coffee farm alongside his reforestation project. He has introduced shade nets over his coffee drying beds, keeping the temperature under 30 degrees to protect the coffee from high temperatures. He’s also focused on his organic composting programme which is crucial for bigger farms.
Our last meeting was a very special one – we met with Alemayehu Daniel and Tibebu Roba – who travelled from Yirgacheffe to Addis to see us, and with Feysel Abdosh of Testi Coffees who exports Tessema Edima. Alemayehu Daniel, Tibebu Roba and Tessema Edima are small producers in Yirgacheffe who got an export license for the first time in 2018 when the Government-run Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) allowed exporters to sell directly to international buyers. In the ECX years traceability was limited to regional lots and quality was graded by flavour profiles and screen size. When the system changed, Trabocca set up the Operation Cherry Red auction programme for the following two harvests (2018 and 2019), facilitating market access to small individual producers. It was then when we first bought coffees from these growers and have done for the last five years.
We were delighted to catch up and taste their coffee in Addis and we hope to visit the farms in November.
We expect the new crops from Ethiopia and Kenya to arrive onto the counters at the end of summer.