Farming methods in the region remain largely traditional. Yirgacheffe farmers typically intercrop their coffee plants with other food crops. This method is common among smallholders because it maximizes land use and provides food for their families.
In addition to remaining traditionally intercropped, most farms are also organic-by-default. Farmers in Yirgacheffe typically use very few—if any—fertilizers or pesticides. Most farm work is done manually by the immediate family.
To capitalize on the magnificent climate, that station provides training to help farmers produce better quality cherry. Training focuses on procedures for harvesting and transporting cherry.
Farmers selectively handpick cherry and deliver it to the washing station station. At intake, employees hand sort incoming cherry to remove any under- or over-ripes or damaged cherry.
Cherry is then pulped on the station’s disc pulper and fermented for 72 hours. After fermentation, parchment is washed in clean water and transferred to raised drying beds. The station marks all drying beds with a code that makes it simple to keep track of traceability and processing status.
Employees rake parchment frequently to ensure even drying. It takes approximately 12 to 15 days for parchment to dry.
Yirgacheffe is a district in Southern Ethiopia’s Sidamo region. Yirgacheffe is widely recognized as one of coffee’s ‘birth regions.’ Washed coffees coming from this district are so well-known and sought-after that Yirgacheffe is considered its own micro-region.
The majority of coffees grown in Yirgacheffe are local landrace varieties (which are often also called Ethiopian heirloom). Other varieties grown in the regjon were developed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC). JARC is an important research center for Ethiopia and has done a great deal of work on developing disease resistant and high yielding varieties that still demonstrate quality in the cup.
Most farmers in the region farm on fewer than 5 hectares (many counting their coffee farms in terms of trees rather than area). Cultivation methods are traditional for the most part, with coffee being grown as part of an integrated ‘coffee garden,’ intercropped with other food crops.
While Ethiopia is famous as coffee’s birthplace, today it remains a specialty coffee industry darling for its incredible variety of flavors. While full traceability has been difficult in recent history, new regulations have made direct purchasing possible. We’re partnering directly with farmers to help them produce top quality specialty lots that are now completely traceable, adding value for farmers and roasters, alike.
The exceptional quality of Ethiopian coffee is due to a combination of factors. The genetic diversity of coffee varieties means that we find a diversity of flavor, even between (or within) farms with similar growing conditions and processing. In addition to varieties, processing methods also contribute to end quality. The final key ingredients for excellent coffee in Ethiopia are the producing traditions that have created the genetic diversity, processing infrastructure and great coffee we enjoy today.
Most producers in Ethiopia are smallholders, and the majority continue to cultivate coffee using traditional methods. As a result, most coffee is grown with no chemical fertilizer or pesticide use. Coffee is almost entirely cultivated, harvested and dried using manual systems.