Chelelektu washing station
For the second year in a row, we offer a lot from this famous washing station in Kochere. Chelelektu is a town in the Kochere woreda or district in the Gedeo zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region. Kochere lies just south of the Yirgacheffe region, west of Gedeb and northeast of the Oromia region.
Over the years, Chelelektu coffee has become synonymous with quality. It is a barista’s favourite for the coffee competitions. Coffees from Chelelektu are known for their typical Ethiopian origin profile – a vibrant floral profile with soft citrus and peach notes. The beans are incredibly well processed at the washing station in Chelelektu town and were deeply blue-green when we cupped them for the first time. During, processing the skin of the fresh cherry is physically removed using a pulp machine and water. The sugar coating or mucilage around the parchment is removed during the fermentation process. Once fermentation is completed the parchment is thoroughly washed with clean spring water to remove all traces of fermented mucilage. At Chelelektu, the parchment is dried on raised beds under shade for 10 up to 12 days until the bean’s interior reaches 12% moisture. This gentle drying under shade results in a concentrated cup and long shelf life.
The clean and dried beans are stored in a warehouse with a region label and are graded. Typically, the coffees are sold to exporters on the commodity exchange. These exporters can sell to the international coffee market.
In the Gedeo zone, coffee is typically grown on a very small scale in the garden of the producer, where it is intercropped with other subsistence crops. The red-brown soils in the area have a high iron content and a depth over 1.5m. Why is this important for coffee, you may ask.
Deep soils allow for the development of an extensive root system, meaning that the coffee plant can get more nutrients and moisture from the soil. A deeper root system also means stronger and taller trees. Soil depth also dictates the soil moisture storage and nutrient storage capacity. Deeper soils naturally have more nutrients and moisture available for the plants growing in them. Plants obtain nutrients through the air, water and the soil. Soil and its nutrients can be regionally specific, varying with local geology. The soils in Gedeo, as mentioned before, have a high iron content. Iron is one of the micronutrients that play an important role in the coffee plant’s functioning. The nutrient is needed to produce chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis, allowing the plant to absorb energy from light. High iron soils, together with many other factors, of course, give the plant more energy to grow and produce cherries.
General Ethiopia info:
Coffee is mainly produced in the southwestern and southeastern parts of the country in the Oromia region and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People Regions (SNNPR), mostly by smallholder farmers on farms of less than 2 hectares on average. These producers supply about 95% of the country’s total production. The coffee growing areas are divided into different regions, each maintaining their distinct flavour characteristics. The three main regions where Ethiopian coffee beans are grown are Harrar, Ghimbi, and Sidamo. Coffee production in Ethiopia remains largely traditional, typically with limited use of fertilisers and pesticides and with a manual coffee cultivation system and drying methods. There are four different ways of producing coffee in Ethiopia: forest coffee, semi – forest coffee, garden coffee, and plantation coffee
Forest coffee is a wild coffee grown under the shade of natural forest trees, with no defined owner.
Semi-forest coffee farming is a system where a farmer living nearby a forest coffee does some thinning and pruning on the forest coffee to finally claim ownership of the forest coffee. The thinning will allow adequate light to reach the coffee plant without exposing the plant to too much sunlight. The farmer who prunes and weeds the forest area claims to be the owner of the semi-forest coffee and collect the annual yield of the plant.
Garden coffee is normally found in the vicinity of a farmer’s residence. Farmers use organic fertilisers to produce Garden coffee and inter-crop it with other crops.
Plantation coffee grows on commercial farms, built by the government or private investors for export purposes. This type of coffee plantation most commonly applies fertilisers and herbicides.
Half of the nationally produced coffee is destined for the domestic market. With a per capita consumption of 2.40kg, Ethiopia leads the African continent in domestic consumption. Coffee has both social and cultural value. It is mainly consumed during social events such as family gatherings, religious celebrations, and at times of mourning. Coffee supplied and traded in the local market usually has a lower quality. Typically, the locally sold coffee was meant for the export market at first, but the quality got rejected for the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange (ECX)’s standards. Despite the low quality, the coffee price in the local market is usually higher than export prices. Up to 20% of the population, directly or indirectly, has depended on coffee production and trading for a living for many generations. About fifteen million people grow the crop for a living, while hundreds of thousands of middlemen are involved in crop collection from farmers and in the supply to the export and domestic market. In 2014, Ethiopia was the world’s fifth biggest coffee producing country, and Africa’s largest producer. Coffee is Ethiopia’s number one source of export revenue, generating about 25-30 percent of the country’s total export earnings.
Ethiopia is one of the few countries where coffee trade is not liberalised. All coffee traders must purchase coffee through the ECX (Ethiopian Commodities Exchange) market with the only exceptions for cooperatives and large-scale growers. These can trade coffee internationally outside the ECX Market by merely obtaining quality certification from the ECX laboratories.
The Ethiopian government established the ECX to handle the marketing of agricultural commodities like coffee, sesame, and beans. Nearly all coffee is sold on the ECX floor either directly through organised coffee producer’s cooperatives or middlemen. ECX is a public market facilitating institution that was established in 2008 with the help of USAID. The main reason for establishing ECX was to eliminate the huge number of middlemen involved in coffee distribution and to enable coffee farmers to benefit from prevailing market prices. Coffee sold through ECX is considered as commodity coffee. Ethiopia mainly exports green beans with only a very small amount of roasted beans. Ethiopian coffee is currently 70-80% unwashed or sundried and 20-30% is washed.
All coffee traders must purchase coffee through the ECX (Ethiopian Commodities Exchange) market with the only exceptions for cooperatives and large-scale growers. These can trade coffee internationally outside the ECX Market by merely obtaining quality certification from the ECX laboratories.
Coffee marketing takes place at three different marketing levels. The first is a primary level coffee transaction where coffee farmers and suppliers trade coffee at a local level. These markets are located near coffee farms. The second transaction chain operates at the ECX Addis Ababa floor where transactions are done in an open auction system. The third level is the usual international coffee market where exporters sell coffee to importers. The coffee export business is reserved for citizens of Ethiopia.