Seven Beans Coffee Roasters

We are Coffee Roasters.  We focus on quality, complexity, and balance in the cup. We have invested in long term partnerships with exceptional coffee farmer and have diligently refined our craft in order to roast some of the highest scoring coffees in the world. It’s an honor to share them with you.

Do you want meticulously roasted single ­origin coffee delivered to your home, office or coffee shop? Enjoy a bi-weekly or monthly coffee subscription of freshly roasted whole bean coffee for you.

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Seven Beans Malta

1100 m

1700 m

2000 m

Tasting Notes:
Dark chocolate, nuts, red berries,
a bit of spices in taste. Balanced,
syrupy. Buttery body. Medium sweetness, low acidity.

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

1 kg



Tasting Notes:
Chocolate & slight fruit sweetness
Plum sweetness with dark chocolate.
altitude 1800 m

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

250 g



altitude 1400 m
Tasting Notes: Cocoa, caramel, dark chocolate. A strong, intense.

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

250 g

Seven Beans Malta



1100 m

1700 m

2000 m

Tasting Notes:
Dark chocolate, nuts, red berries,
a bit of spices in taste. Balanced,
syrupy. Buttery body. Medium sweetness, low acidity.

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

250 g

We love coffee

The History Of Coffee ( )

In the Ethiopian highlands, where the legend of Kaldi, the goatherd, originated, coffee trees grow today as they have for centuries. Though we will never know with certainty, there probably is some truth to the Kaldi legend.

It is said that he discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so spirited that they did not want to sleep at night.

Kaldi dutifully reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. Soon the abbot had shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and ever so slowly knowledge of the energizing effects of the berries began to spread. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe.

Today coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world. Whether it is Asia or Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or Pacific, all can trace their heritage to the trees in the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau.



The Arabian Peninsula

The Arabs were the first, not only to cultivate coffee but also to begin its trade. By the fifteenth century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

ThehistoryCoffee was not only drunk in homes but also in the many public coffee houses — called qahveh khaneh — which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. Not only did they drink coffee and engage in conversation, but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess and kept current on the news of the day. In fact, they quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that the coffee houses were often referred to as ‘Schools of the Wise.’

With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, word of the ‘wine of Araby’ as the drink was often called, was beginning to spread far beyond Arabia. In an effort to maintain its complete monopoly in the early coffee trade, the Arabians continued to closely guard their coffee production.



Coffee Comes to Europe

European travellers to the Near East brought back stories of the unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. Opponents were overly cautious, calling the beverage the ‘bitter invention of Satan.’ With the coming of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy condemned it. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. Before making a decision however, he decided to taste the beverage for himself. He found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.

coffeecomestovienna1Despite such controversy, in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland, coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication. In England ‘penny universities’ sprang up, so called because for the price of a penny one could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in stimulating conversation. By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses in London, many of which attracted patrons with common interests, such as merchants, shippers, brokers and artists.

Many businesses grew out of these specialized coffee houses. Lloyd’s of London, for example, came into existence at the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House.



The New World

In the mid-1600′s, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later called New York by the British.

Though coffee houses rapidly began to appear, tea continued to be the favored drink in the New World until 1773 when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George. The revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.



Plantations Around the World

As demand for the beverage continued to spread, there was tense competition to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia. Though the Arabs tried hard to maintain their monopoly, the Dutch finally succeeded, in the latter half of the 17th century, to obtain some seedlings. Their first attempts to plant them in India failed but they were successful with their efforts in Batavia, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia. The plants thrived and soon the Dutch had a productive and growing trade in coffee. They soon expanded the cultivation of coffee trees to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.

The Dutch did a curious thing, however. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. The King ordered it to be planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723, a young naval officer, Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the King’s plant. Despite an arduous voyage — complete with horrendous weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling and a pirate attack — he managed to transport it safely to Martinique. Once planted, the seedling thrived and is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinique in the next 50 years. It was also the stock from which coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America originated.

Coffee is said to have come to Brazil in the hands of Francisco de Mello Palheta who was sent by the emperor to French Guiana for the purpose of obtaining coffee seedlings. But the French were not willing to share and Palheta was unsuccessful. However, he was said to have been so handsomely engaging that the French Governor’s wife was captivated. As a going-away gift, she presented him with a large bouquet of flowers. Buried inside he found enough coffee seeds to begin what is today a billion-dollar industry.

In only 100 years, coffee had established itself as a commodity crop throughout the world. Missionaries and travellers, traders and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands and coffee trees were planted worldwide. Plantations were established in magnificent tropical forests and on rugged mountain highlands. Some crops flourished, while others were short-lived. New nation’s were established on coffee economies. Fortunes were made and lost. And by the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops.

Ten Steps To Coffee / From the Seed to the Cup


High on a lush, steep hillside covered with coffee trees, a picker carries a heavy bag filled with a long day’s work. The bag contains ripe, red coffee cherries. Months from now, the beans from that day’s harvest might be the very ones you purchase at your favorite store. Between the time that he picked them and you purchase them, the beans went through a series of steps very much like this.

A coffee nursery

1. Planting

A coffee bean is actually a seed. When dried, roasted and ground, it is used to brew  coffee. But if the seed is not processed, it can be planted and will grow into a coffee  tree.

Coffee seeds are generally planted in large beds in shaded nurseries.  After  sprouting, the seedlings are removed from the seed bed to be planted in individual  pots in carefully formulated soils. They will be watered frequently and shaded  from bright sunlight until they are hearty enough to be permanently planted.      Planting often takes place during the wet season, so that the soil around the young  trees remains moist while the roots become firmly established.

Coffee Cherries
Coffee cherries

2. Harvesting the Cherries

Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3 or 4 years for the newly planted  coffee trees to begin to bear fruit. The fruit, called the coffee cherry, turns a bright,  deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested.  In most countries, the coffee  crop is picked by hand, a labor-intensive and difficult process, though in places like  Brazil, where the landscape is relatively flat and the coffee fields immense, the  process has been mechanized. Whether picked by hand or by machine, all coffee  is harvested in one of two ways:

Strip Picked – the entire crop is harvested at one time. This can either be done by  machine or by hand.  In either case, all of the cherries are stripped off of the branch  at one time.

Coffee transported in bags in Ethiopia

Selectively Picked – only the ripe cherries are harvested and they are picked  individually by hand. Pickers rotate among the trees every 8 – 10 days, choosing  only the cherries which are at the peak of ripeness. Because this kind of harvest is  labor intensive, and thus more costly, it is used primarily to harvest the finer arabica  beans.

In most coffee-growing countries, there is one major harvest a year; though in  countries like Colombia, where there are two flowerings a year, there is a main and  secondary crop. A good picker averages approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherry a day,  which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans. At the end of a day of picking,  each worker’s harvest is carefully weighed and each picker is paid on the merit of his or her work. The day’s harvest is then combined and transported to the processing plant.

Coffee drying on a mat

3. Processing the Cherries

Once the coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to  prevent spoilage.  Depending on location and local resources, coffee is processed in  one of two ways.

The Dry Method  
This is the age-old method of processing coffee and is still used in many countries  where water resources are limited. The freshly picked cherries are simply spread  out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. In order to prevent the cherries from  spoiling, they are raked and turned throughout the day, then covered at night, or if  it rains, to prevent them from getting wet. Depending on the weather, this process  might continue for several weeks for each batch of coffee. When the moisture  content of the cherries drops to 11 percent, the dried cherries are moved to  warehouses where they are stored

Wet method processing

The Wet Method
In wet method processing, the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry after  harvesting and the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on.  There are  several actual steps involved. First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed  through a pulping machine where the skin and pulp is separated from the bean.  The pulp is washed away with water, usually to be dried and used as mulch. The  beans are separated by weight as they are conveyed through water channels, the  lighter beans floating to the top, while the heavier, ripe beans sink to the bottom.

Next they are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.

After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on a combination of factors — such as the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude — they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours. The purpose of this process is to remove the slick layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment; while resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes will cause this layer to dissolve. When fermentation is complete the beans will feel rough, rather than slick, to the touch.  At that precise moment, the beans are rinsed by being sent through additional water channels.  They are then ready for drying.

Drying beans in the sun

4. Drying the Beans

If the beans have been processed by the wet method, the pulped and fermented  beans must now be dried to approximately 11 percent moisture to properly prepare  them for storage.  These beans, still encased inside the parchment envelope (the  endocarp), can be sun dried by spreading them on drying tables or floors, where  they are turned regularly, or they can be machine dried in large tumblers.  Once  dried, these beans, referred to as ‘parchment coffee,’ are warehoused in sisal  or jute bags until they are readied for export.

5. Milling the Beans

Before it is exported, parchment coffee is processed in the following manner:

Machines are used to remove the parchment layer (endocarp) from wet processed coffee.  Hulling dry processed coffee refers to removing the entire dried husk — the exocarp, mesocarp & endocarp — of the dried cherries.

This is an optional process in which any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed in a polishing machine. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished ones, in reality there is little difference between the two.

Grading & Sorting
Before being exported, the coffee beans will be even more precisely sorted by size and weight. They will also be closely evaluated for color flaws or other imperfections.

Typically, the bean size is represented on a scale of 10 to 20. The number represents the size of a round hole’s diameter in terms of 1/64′s of an inch. A number 10 bean would be the approximate size of a hole in a diameter of 10/64 of an inch and a number 15 bean, 15/64 of an inch. Beans are sized by being passed through a series of different sized screens. They are also sorted pneumatically by using an air jet to separate heavy from light beans.

Next defective beans are removed.  Though this process can be accomplished by sophisticated machines, in many countries, it is done by hand while the beans move along an electronic conveyor belt.  Beans of unsatisfactory size, color, or that are otherwise unacceptable, are removed. This might include over-fermented beans, those with insect damage or that are unhulled. In many countries, this process is done both by machine and hand, insuring that only the finest quality coffee beans are exported

A coffee port: Cartehena, Colombia

6. Exporting the Beans

The milled beans, now referred to as ‘green coffee,’ are ready to be loaded onto  ships for transport to the importing country.  Green coffee is shipped in either jute  or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers, or it is bulk shipped inside  plastic-lined containers. Approximately seven million tons of green coffee is  produced worldwide each year.

7. Tasting the Coffee

At every stage of its production, coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste.  This process is referred to as ‘cupping’ and usually takes place in a room specifically  designed to facilitate the process. First, the taster — usually called the cupper –  carefully evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality.  The beans are then  roasted in a small laboratory roaster, immediately ground and infused in boiling water, the temperature of which is carefully controlled. The cupper “noses” the brew to experience its aroma, an integral step in the evaluation of the coffee’s quality. After letting the coffee rest for several minutes, the cupper “breaks the crust” by pushing aside the grounds at the top of the cup. Again the coffee is nosed before the tasting begins.

To taste the coffee, the cupper “slurps” a spoonful with a quick inhalation. The objective is to spray the coffee evenly over the cupper’s taste buds, and then “weigh” it before spitting it out. Samples from a variety of batches and different beans are tasted daily.  Coffees are not only analyzed this way for their inherent characteristics and flaws, but also for the purpose of blending different beans or determining the proper roast.  An expert cupper can taste hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them.

Roasted beans in Costa Rica

8. Roasting the Coffee

Roasting transforms green coffee into the aromatic brown beans that we purchase,  either whole or already ground, in our favorite stores. Most roasting machines  maintain a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  The beans are kept  moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning and when they  reach an internal temperature of about 400 degrees, they begin to turn brown and  the caffeol, or oil, locked inside the beans begins to emerge.

This process, called pyrolysis is at the heart of roasting.  It is what produces the  flavor and aroma of the coffee we drink.  When the beans are removed from the  roaster, they are immediately cooled either by air or water. Roasting is generally  performed in the importing countries because freshly roasted beans must reach  the consumer as quickly as possible.

9. Grinding Coffee

The objective of a proper grind is to get the most flavor in a cup of coffee. How coarse or fine the coffee is ground depends on the method by which the coffee is to be brewed. Generally, the finer the grind the more quickly the coffee should be prepared. That is why coffee ground for use in an espresso machine is much finer than coffee which will be brewed in a drip system.

10. Brewing Coffee

Before you brew your coffee, take a moment to look carefully at the beans.  Smell their aroma. Think of the many processes that these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-picked and sorted in their origin country. Consider the long way they have traveled to your kitchen.  Prepare your coffee thoughtfully and enjoy it with pleasure.  Many people have been instrumental in bringing it to your cup!


Seven Beans Malta

About Guatemala

Seven Beans Malta



altitude 1400 m
Tasting Notes: Cocoa, caramel, dark chocolate. A strong, intense.

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

250 g

The highlands of Guatemala produce several of the world’s finest and most distinctive coffees. The mountain basin surrounding the austerely beautiful colonial city Guatemala Antigua produces the most distinguished of these highland coffees: Guatemala Antigua, a coffee that combines complex nuance (smoke, spice, flowers, occasionally chocolate) with acidity ranging from gently bright to austerely powerful. Fraijanes displays similar cup characteristics. Other Guatemala coffees, perhaps because they are more exposed to wet ocean weather than the mountain-protected Antigua basin, tend to display slightly softer, often less powerful, but equally complexly nuanced profiles. These softer Guatemalas include Cobán, admired for its fullish body and gentle, deep, rounded profile, Huehuetenango from the Caribbean-facing slopes of the central mountain range, and San Marcos coffees from the Pacific-facing slopes. Coffees from the basin surrounding Lake Atitlan in south central Guatemala typically offer the same complex nuance as Antiguas but are lighter in body and brighter in flavor.

There are many excellent Guatemalan estates. To name just a small selection: in the Antigua Valley San Sebastián, La Tacita, San Rafael Urias, Pastores, and Las Nubes. In Huehuetenango Santa Cecilia, Huixoc, and El Coyegual. In the Coban region Yaxbatz, Los Alpes, and El Recreo. In San Marcos, Dos Marias.

Small-holder coffees predominate in Huehuetenango and Coban, but transportation difficulties and wet weather during harvest may compromise quality. Perhaps the best small-holder Guatemala coffees come from peasant farmers in the Lake Atitlan basin, who are organized into cooperatives that run their own mills and turn out meticulously prepared coffee. These cooperatives are clustered near the lakeside towns of San Juan La Laguna, San Lucas Toliman, and Santiago Atitlan. A San Juan La Laguna cooperative markets its excellent coffee under the poetic name “La Voz que Clama en el Desierto.” The Lake Atitlan cooperatives that I have visited practice coffee production at the ultimate end of environmental correctness: organically grown in a dense, bird-sheltering shade canopy of native trees and plants. The coffee is processed with passion and precision, although delays in getting the freshly picked coffee fruit down the mountainside to the cooperative mills sometimes imparts a slight, giddily fermented twist to the cup. Atitlan cooperative coffees are a perfect choice for those in search of both cup quality and a coffee grown in exquisite harmony with earth and the aspirations of people on it.

The highest grade of Guatemala coffee is Strictly Hard Bean (SHB). The regionally designated coffees (Antigua, Atitlan, Cobán, etc) are tasted and approved as meeting flavor profile criteria established for these regions by ANACAFE, the Guatemalan coffee association. Those coffees that do not meet regional flavor profile criteria are only allowed to be sold as Strictly Hard Bean without regional designation.

Generally, Guatemala has preserved more of the traditional typica and bourbon varieties of arabica than many other Latin American growing countries, which may account for the generally superior complexity of the Guatemala cup. Most Guatemala coffee is grown in shade, ranging from rigorously managed shade on large farms to the serendipitous thickets of small growers.

About Peru “Tunki”

The Tunki coffee Peru is sustainably shade-grown at an altitude of 1600-1800 metres in the Peruvian Andes. This high-altitude gives Tunki it’s unmistakable delicious & crisp taste.

Tunki coffee Peru gets it’s name after the locally found wild bird (also known as ‘cock of the rocks’) is traditionally farmed and produced without the use of nasty pesticides or chemicals that not only poison the coffee and water supply but also can have major side effects on the brain development in children who are often exposed to these harmful agrochemicals. Sustainable really has to mean sustainable for all involved not simply based on profit margin.

Situated high in the mountains amongst the most beautiful flora and fauna of the Tambopata Valley the coffee beans are firstly fed and washed by pure spring waters and then harvested by hand by local indigenous Quechuan and Aymara speaking families who have worked the area for generations. Our farmers enjoy the benefits of working as a cooperative, which provides much needed annual funds and training on how to organically enhance farming conditions as well as providing a stable market for their coffee and a guarantee that a fair price will always be achieved…


About Colombia

Seven Beans Malta


Tasting Notes:
Chocolate & slight fruit sweetness
Plum sweetness with dark chocolate.
altitude 1800 m

F A I R  T O  F A R M E R ,  D I R E C T  T R A D E

250 g

In a country as large as Colombia, with an established coffee industry that is spread over 17 regions, there is bound to be variation in quality with a range that includes truly exceptional through to rather ordinary. Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and Vietnam – though holds the crown for being the largest producer of washed arabica.

The coffee producing areas lie among the foothills of the Andes and the Sierra Nevada, where the climate is temperate with adequate rainfall. Colombia has three secondary mountain ranges (cordilleras) that run towards the Andes and it is amongst these that the coffee is grown. The hilly terrain provides a wide variety of micro-climates which means that harvesting can take place throughout the year as the coffee of different farms will ripen at varying times. There are more than half a million growers spread throughout the key regions of Nariño, Cauca, Meta, Huila, Tolima, Quindio, Caldas, Risaralda, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Cundinamarca, Guajira, Cesar, Madgalena, Boyacá, Santander and Norte de Santander. Key varietals include caturra, bourbon, typica, castillo, colombia and maragogipe.

The first exports of coffee from Colombia began in 1835 when around 2,500 bags were exported to the U.S. and by 1875 there were 170,000 bags were leaving the country bound for the U.S. and Europe. Exports grew over the next hundred years or so and peaked in 1992 at around 17 million bags. Today, following unreliable weather patterns and a national programme of plant regeneration, Colombian exports are currently around 7 million bags of coffee per year.

Coffee’s importance to the Colombian economy brought about the development of The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) in 1927. This body is responsible for research, technical advisory services, quality control and marketing. Juan Valdez, a fictitious character created by the FNC, is the world famous moustachioed, mule-riding and sombrero-wearing coffee farmer and very much the face of the Colombian coffee industry.

It is widely accepted that some of the country’s best coffees come from the south west in the departments of Huila, Tolima, Nariño and Cauca. We have chosen to work with a group of Huila farmers situated in the Guadalupe municipality in the valley of the Suaza River, about two hours south of the department’s capital Neiva  and on en route to Florencia, the capital of neighbouring department, Caqueta. Here, high in the Andean Mountains, conditions are perfect for the production of fine Arabica coffee; good regular rainfall, rich and fertile soils, average farm altitudes of around 1,600 meters above sea level and good shade that includes Plantain, Chachafruto, Guamo and Nogal trees. The growers association we are working with is called Villa Esperanza and was established almost a decade ago.

About Brazil

Brazil is South America’s most influential and economically powerful country and one of the world’s largest economies. During the last few years great strides have been made in lifting millions out of poverty across the country. Coffee was introduced to Brazil in 1720 in the southern state of Paraná and has become the powerhouse of the coffee world accounting for more than a third of all coffee produced. Legend has it that at that time the Brazilian government had wanted a cut of world coffee production and sent Lt.Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta to French Guiana on the pretence of mediating on a border dispute. Aware that he would not be allowed to visit the fort-like coffee plantations, the lieutenant instead used his charms to woo the first lady of Guiana and encouraged her to give him the seedlings he also desired. Unable to resist his charms, she presented him with a bouquet spiked with coffee seeds at a farewell banquet held in his honour. Whether sex and deceit can really be attributed to Brazil’s introduction to coffee cannot be proved but there can be no doubt that now, in the 21st century, Brazil’s dominance in world production is unrivalled. Annual crops as high as 60 million bags are becoming common place.

Coffee plantations cover about 27,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi) of the country; of the approximately six billion trees, 74% are arabica and 26% robusta. The states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná are the largest producers due to suitable landscapes, climate and rich soil. The state of Paraná lies in the south of Brazil and falls below the tropic of Capricorn making it vulnerable to occasional low temperatures and frosts. During the 1970s and 1990s many coffee farms were wiped out following devastating black frosts. Such risky conditions led to many farmers moving further north to a new coffee producing region near the nation’s new capital, Brasilia. This frost-free highland savannah is commonly known as the Cerrado.

The word Cerrado is derived from the Portuguese term for “closed, inaccessible wasteland” and until the early 1970s the area was indeed considered to be an inaccessible and useless wasteland. The region produced little of value and could not be productively cultivated as it was isolated from the rest of Brazil by lack of roads or other modern transport access. Yet the area is vast – the Cerrado region comprises 21% of the entire country and is the second largest biome in Brazil. The grassy and lightly wooded savannah covers over 2,000,000 square kilometres of Brazil’s central plateau and developments in agriculture allowed the land to be used productively. We have chosen both of our Brazil coffees from the Cerrado in Minas Gerais as the region is renowned for producing coffees that are great for anchoring solid espresso blends with plenty of body and sweetness, often with nuances of cocoa and berries.

About Kenya



Key info:

  • Production pr year: about 50 thousand metric tons on average.
  • Production is mainly divided in to areas in Central Kenya and Western Kenya
  • Main areas Central Kenya: Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Muranga and Thika
  • Main areas Western Kenya: Nakuru, Bungoma, Kisii, Kitale
  • Number of Cooperative societies: About 550
  • Number of washing stations under the Societies: about 1100 wetmills
  • Number of small Estates with less than 20 Hectares: about 3000
  • Number of Estates larger than 20 Hectares: About 300
  • Coffee growers: about 700 000 farmers (smallholders)
  • Average size of smallholder farms: 0,4 Hectars
  • Average tree pr hectar : Less than 1000
  • Average yield pr tree, small holders: 0,5 kg of greens
  • Varietals: Main varietals are SL 28, SL34, K7, Ruiru 11, Batian (new)
  • Altitudes: up to 2200 masl. Majority between 1500-1900 masl
  • Rainfall:  From 1000 – 1500 mm annualy
  • Main Harvest: From September – December
  • Fly/early crop: From May – July
  • Process: Pulped on disc pulpers, dry fermented at traditional washing stations and Estates.
  • Standard fermentation: Up to 30 hours dry fermentation in concrete tanks. Washed and graded before soaked  10 – 24 hours in clean water.
  • Drying: At African beds on jute clothing or shade net on top of wire mesh. Drying time 10-15 days.
  • For more info visit:

Gikanda Cooperative Society, the umbrella organization for Gitchathaini, Kangocho and Ndaroini Factories (wet mills)

General information

Kenya lies at longitude 34 – 42 degrees and latitudes 5 degrees.

It covers an area of 580 thousand square kilometers. There are about 43 million inhabitants. The two main coffee growing areas are in the surroundings of Mt. Kenya in Central Kenya as well the west all the way towards Mt. Elgon at the  border of Uganda.

Kenya can produce up to 65 000 tons of green coffee, but it varies from year to year. Kenya produces fully washed coffees only, and is considered by many as the world’s number one quality producer. There are more than 700 thousand coffee farmers (smallholders) representing about 55% of the production. The rest is mostly Estates. There are about 3000 small estates with less than 20 hectares, 300 larger ones and about 1100 cooperative wet mills. Coffee exports counts for about 10% of Kenya’s income.

Cherries going in to the hopper before pulping.


Coffee plants were at first brought in to Tanzania by the French missionaries from Bourbon Island. At the same time Scottish missionaries were active in Kenya and were experimenting with Mocha seedlings from Ethiopia. Together the two groups introduced the two strains Mocha and Bourbon. It supposedly hybridized in the Kilimanjaro area into a new varietal known as French Mission.

The coffee came to Nairobi in 1897 and was well cultivated in the next ten years.

Around 1910 the colonists living outside Nairobi started to plant trees in areas like Kiambu and Thika.

By 1920 coffee became Kenya’s main export crop. During the 1930s the coffee industry went through major changes as it went from being a colonial experiment to a major industry.

They started to experiment with different marketing strategies and cooperative systems.

Some of the planters started the Thika planters Cooperative Union that later became the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union. The KPCU became dominant voice of the Kenyan coffee planters. They have played a major role as marketing agents and dry millers up to now, but have had some challenges in recent years, and basically went out of business a couple of years ago.

In 1932 the Coffee board of Kenya was established. They established the coffee auction in 1934. In the late 1940s they established a nationwide grading system and introduced the mechanical huller to remove the parchment.

In 1934 the colonial government allowed indigenous people to plant coffees under strict regulations, but it didn’t work well. From 1946 they encouraged Kenyans to start planting cash crops. After 1950 the smallholder sector picked up. After a while it dominated the KPCU. They started to build wetmills from the 1960s.

In 1978 the smallholder sector surpassed the large estates in terms of production, and still accounts for more than 50% of the total production.

The cherry in the bottom of the picture is a typical excample of CBD (coffee berry disease)


They started early in Kenya to experiment with varietals. Around 1910 they experimented with the Tanzanian (Tanganyika) varietals and mixed them with varietals from Mysore in India. This hybrid is now known as Kent.

In the 1920s they used the French Mission as a base to create something called “Kenyas Selected”.

In 1934 they started to develop new varietals in the Scot Laboratories. They discovered a variety in the Mondul area in Tanzania that had good resistance against drought and pests. They also gathered trees of the original French Mission and other varietals that seemed to perform well. About 42 different trees of the French Mission and different Mocha varieties were selected in the 1930s based on their yield, quality and resistance to pests, drought and diseases. The new varietals from the Scot Laboratories was prefixed as SL. They started with SL 1 created from the “Kenya Selected” and developed a lot of different SL’s continued with SL 2 , 3, 4 and so on, all created from different varietals based on French Mission, Bourbon and Mocha (Typica). Finally they ended up with the SL 28 and SL 34 that are still widely used.

SL 28 was selected fro a single tree from a Tanzanian drought resistance variety, and have some Ethiopian influence as well as traits from a tree from Sudan’s Boma plateau.

It has a broad copper tip leaf, bold beans, but are pretty low yielding. It’s known for delicate and complex flavor attributes.

SL 34 came from a single selection of French Mission at an Estate in Nairobi. It’s similar to the old “Kenya Selected” in appearance. It has been highly appreciated for  it’s high yield and shows good resistance to droughts.

K7, another well-known variety was also selected from the French Mission, and are known for great immunity towards diseases. Still, not as much appreciated for cup quality as the SL’s.

Ruiru11 was created in the 1980’s. The goal was to create a high yield plant resistant to leaf rust and CBD (coffee berry disease). They mixed “Hibrido de Timor” (a Robusta/Arabica hybrid) with “Rume Sudan” from the Boma plateau as well as with SL 28 and SL 34 for improved cup quality.

Blue Mountain was brought in from Jamaica and planted in western Kenya around 1913. It hasn’t been too successful in Kenya, but you can still find it in the Western parts.

Batian is a new high yielding disease resistant variety that was released by the Coffee Research Foundation in Kenya in 2010. It’s supposed to improve cup qualities compared to Ruiru 11, and should be more equal to the SL 28. It’s back crossed from SL 28 and SL 34 and include SL4, N39, N30, Hibrido de Timor, Rume Sudan, and K7 .


The biggest challenge is probably the fungus causing the “Coffee Berry Disease” known as CBD. The fungus lives in the bark of the coffee tree and produces spores which attack the coffee cherries. The coffee cherries become dark, almost black in color and if it spreads at a farm or estate it can be devastating. It can be treated with copper formulations or organic fungicides. Still, this is too expensive for most farmers.

Another other challenge is leaf rust. It creates red/brown spots on the leaves. Coffee leaf rust is spread by wind and rain from spores from lesions on the underside of the plant. It can also be treated with expensive copper-based fungicides.

The coffee regions

A smallholder picking coffee in Nyeri, Central Kenya.

Central Kenya

Most of the well-known Kenyan coffees are from Central Kenya grown at estates in the Kiambu/Thika area or in Nyery/Kirinyaga by smallholders. Other areas in Central Kenya are Embu, Meru, Muranga.

Nyeri in particular is known for the most complex flavor attributes, but neighboring district Kirinyaga does have coffees with great potential as well. In general you can find fantastic coffees from most areas in this region if you know where to look. Still, in our opinion Nyeri has the highest density of wetmills producing overall high quality coffees. Most of them have really good growing conditions and altitudes as well as good quality control at the wetmills.

Western Kenya

You have areas such as Nakuru and Baringo not so far from Central Kenya, but there are also regions far west such as Bungoma, Kitale and Busia at Mt. Elgon.

There is a lot of development in the west right now, and some exporters are investing to access more coffees and get better control on the quality. Production is lower than in Central Kenya and the Cooperatives not as well organized, but the potential is great. There are a lot of smallholders at high altitudes. You have both traditional estates, well-established traditional cooperatives as well as new ones.

We will be looking in to the west, and have already discovered some great coffees from the Mt. Elgon area.

Farmers sorting cherries at the factory before the coffee is accepted, weighed and processed at the mill.

Farming and production

The coffee sector is divided into smallholder cooperative societies, small estates with less than 20 hectares, and large estates.

Cooperative societies and their wet mills represents more than 50% of the Kenyan coffee production. In our opinion you can find coffees from some of these producers greater than almost anything else worldwide.

The societies are the umbrella organization for one or several wetmills. Typically you have the Tekangu society that represents the wetmills Tegu, Karogoto and Ngunguru. The wet mills in Kenya are called Factories, e.g. Karogoto Factory.

The Tekangu society will monitor the financing and will be the seller of the coffee from the factories. Still the individual wet mills will be responsible for production, management and overhead cost. The farmers can choose where they want to deliver their cherries, and if a wet mill does well, and is able to give a good second payment to the farmers they will attract more cherry suppliers.

A typical wet mill can have about 1000 farmers delivering cherries. They give a small advance payment at delivery. The better and well-managed wet mills are able to give more than 85% of the sales price back to the farmers. That’s after cost of milling and marketing is deducted.

Most wet mills use traditional disc pulpers before dry fermentation, washing in channels, soaking in clean water, drying at raised tables and conditioning in bins at the warehouse.

Small Estates are located all over but are more represented in certain areas (for instance, they are more common in Kirinyaga than Nyeri). They can have amazing coffees, but as they are smaller in terms of production they often blend coffees randomly according to what they have to make a full consignment. This can in some cases be hit and miss. They normally process their coffees with small and modified pulpers of various quality. Normally they follow the same steps with dry fermentation, soaking and drying, but it can be more random according to their capacity when the cherries comes in.


The larger estates are mainly located in the outskirts of Nairobi. They do dense planting, high maintenance plant treatment and irrigation. They are able to produce up to 1,5 kg of greens pr tree, about three times of what smallholders produce on the average. Many of them outsource the management to professional providers of management services. The coffees are pulped at traditional disc pulpers, dry fermented, washed and soaked, and dried on raised tables before conditioned in bins constructed by wood and wire mesh.

You can find good coffees among the products from the Estates, but in general they are in our opinion missing the flavor intensity and complexity you can find in other Kenyans.

Coffees pulped at a Agaarde 4 disc pulper. The parchment is sorted by density after the skin is removed. The densest beans, P1, goes down to the bottom and is pumped up on the left hand side. The semi dense, P2, is separated on the right, and the floaters comes out with the water in the middle.

Processing and drying

We will use the smallholder and cooperative structure to describe the process, though except from picking and cherry delivery, the process is more or less similar for most producers no matter if it is a cooperative or a large estate.

Cherry delivery

Is done at the wet mills or at collection centers. When the farmers arrive at the place for delivery they would normally have to empty their bags on the floor (on a cover) to sort out unripe, overripe and CBD infected cherries. A supervisor inspects the cherries before they are weighed and the farmers get a small up front payment for the delivery. The delivery from every farmer is registered and they get a receipt for the amount. This will be the base for their right to payment after the coffee is sold. Some farmers are organized in groups or associations to be able to cooperate on investments for soil inputs and necessary equipment for farming.


After the coffees are weighed they go in to the main cherry hopper above the pulper. Some wet mills have a separate hopper for the low grades such as under and over ripes.

When they start the pulper the cherries go by gravity in to the machine.

They normally use disc pulpers such as old three disc Agaarde or similar brands. As long as you change the discs from time to time they can work perfectly well. It’s also important to adjust the pulper to remove the pulp (fruit) properly without damaging the parchment.

The parchment flows from the discs with water allowing the parchment to be separated by density. The densest beans will sink and are pumped straight through a channel to the fermentation tank as P1 (parchment 1), the semi dense will go to a separate fermentation tank as P2. The floaters, P3, are considered as low grades and will normally go straight to the drying tables.

P1 and P2 are dry fermented for about 20 hours.


After pulping, the coffees are dry fermented (water is drained off) in painted concrete tanks. Normally they are fermented for 18-24 hours. Many factories do intermediate washing every 6 – 8 hours, meaning they add water, stir up the parchment and drain it again.

Washing and soaking  

When fermentation is completed and the mucilage is disolved the parchment gets washed in washing channels and graded again by density. The lighter beans will float off and the remaining dense parchment will normally be soaked in clean water up to 24 hours.

Coffees are washed and graded by density in washing channels before they go to the soaking tanks.

Drying and conditioning

After soaking, the coffees are skin dried at hessian mesh mats for skin drying up to one day. This is to quickly get off the moisture at the surface of the parchment.

After a day the coffees are moved to the traditional drying tables. The coffee is then normally dried on a surface of jute clothing or shade net on top of the wire mesh.

The parchment is constantly moved as they sort out defected parchment and beans.

The coffee has to be covered with plastic during the hottest periods of the day, normally between 12 pm and 2 pm as well as during the night.

The drying time varies between 12 and 20 days depending on weather and rainfall.

The moisture target is 11-12%.

They also have a tradition of intermediate conditioning. Depending on the capacity on the drying tables and the producer’s philosophy, some of them take the parchment in to the conditioning bins at what they call the black stage, when the coffees are stabilized at around 16%. They can be conditioned for some weeks before they are placed on the drying tables again to finish of the drying.

Drying at African beds. Takes about two weeks.

Dry milling and marketing

Even if you can buy coffees directly from the producers these days, bypassing the auction, the system is still based on the same structure as before.

A producer normally has an agreement with a marketing agent and a dry mill.

Whenever he has a consignment ready he delivers the parchment to the mill. This could typically be 200 bags of parchment, equivalent to about 130 bags of exportable greens. The producer is still the owner of the coffee, the miller will charge a fixed fee for the milling and the marketing agent will have a margin based on percentages from the sales.

The coffee will be milled and graded in to bean size and different qualities. The mill and marketing agent normally cooperate and the coffee will then often be cupped, and presented in the auction catalogue by the marketing agent. At this point it can also be marketed and sold directely.

Parchment conditioned at the black stage, around 16%, before they go back to the tables again, or after the coffees are dried down to about 12%.


The dry mills in Kenya works very well and are highly professional and efficient. The coffees goes through their standard grading systems:

E (Elephant beans) = screen 19 and up, AA = 17/18, AB = 16/17, PB = Peaberries.

The rest is lower grades such as C = below14, TT and T is the low-density beans over and under screen 14.

In the mill everything is kept separate for the auction, and it’s a great opportunity to cup through the different grades from the same outturns and consignments.

At this point we are able to do extensive cupping at the mill to be able to pick out our coffees before they enter the auction catalogue.

Coffees milled and graded at Central Kenya Coffee Mill before they enter the auction catalogue or are sent to Nairobi for preparation after direct sales.

Purchase, Export and transparency

Whenever we have found a coffee and want to commit, we will have the marketing agent negotiate the price directly with the producers (in our case the Cooperative Society as we normally buy from the smallholders cooperatives).

As soon as we have agreed on the price the coffee will be moved to the warehouse in Nairobi to get handpicked and packaged in Grain Pro or Vacuum according to our specifications. The coffees will sit in the warehouse until we have a confirmed shipment leaving Mombasa.

The good thing with the system in Kenya is that everything is more or less separated into small lots and different grades. By tradition and through the auction system each coffees has been evaluated separately and get a value and individual price based on the cup quality and attributes. This gives the producers great incentives to focus on quality control, as it will normally pay off.

If you buy coffees direct through the second window, the producers expect to get prices above the average auction prices at present time.

In addition the system is transparent as everybody knows what’s going back to the society after cost of milling and marketing is deducted.

There have been issues with payment from some marketing agents to the Societies, and from the Societies back to the farmers, but we strive to work with Cooperative Societies that are able to document what’s going back to the producers. In fact many of the more serious Societies and factories are competing, getting cherries in from the same areas, and are putting effort and pride in giving the best payback to their farmers. Some of the Coops we work with have been able to pay up to 90% back to the farmers.

Kenya purchase

Cupped through some hundred cups at Central Kenya Coffee mill in Karatina to find our coffees this year.

Intense berry flavors and fruit, rich, complex, juicy, floral and elegant, that’s Kenyan coffee at its best! The Kenyan coffee harvest has come to an end. We have some fantastic coffees coming in this spring. First container will arrive early April if everything goes as planned. The prices are slightly down from last year, but you still have to pay up for the good ones. And again it’s totally worth the price!

Coffee piles up in the dry mill in Karatina.

There was a lot of coffee harvested this year, and some may say quality is down. Last year was a blast, but there is still amazing coffee this year as well.  It’s just more coffees to cup through to find the really great ones. Some wet mills had some drying challenges this year because of capacity issues on drying tables. That may be true for the average quality in Kenya, but the stand outs will as always speak for themselves.

There were also some great AB’s this year, and truth is some of the best AB’s we found were far better than most of the AA we cupped from other wet mills or outturns. From the top lots you could find the AA’s to be slightly more transparent and complex, but missing the fruit intensity and juiciness of the AB.


One out of many Karogotos we cupped and bought

Great stuff will soon arrive from Karogoto factory in Nyeri as well as some N’dumberi from Kiambu and a new discovery from Western Kenya from a wetmill called Kapsokisio. Different in flavor from the central Kenyan ones, but beautiful and elegant with floral attributes, citrus, yellow fruit and rosehip/raspberry notes..

Second shipment will probably arrive a month later, in the beginning of May. There will be coffees from the Kagumoini wet mill, Kangocho and hopefully some Kirinyaga coffee factories. These coffees are not yet ready to be milled and will hopefully be on float end of March/beginning of April.

Final drying at the tables. In Kenya it’s common to do intermediate conditioning when coffees are stable at around 16% moist. They They can store it in conditioning bins for weeks before they take them out in the sun for a few days to get down to a target at around 11%

All these coffees are bought direct and selected by us before they ever reach the Kenyan Coffee Auction. As we have spent weeks, and even months in Kenya all together we have an idea of what profiles and qualities the different Factories (wet mills) are producing. Even if it can vary from year to year we will normally find what we are looking for when we cup through enough separated out turns from the selected factories. First step is to check out what’s going on during harvest, and visit the wet mills and producers. Second is about timing, to be there when all the better coffees arrives at the dry mill. We want to build relationships as well. Coming back to the same coffee factories every year encourage them to continue to improve quality as well as they get proud of their product. We do also pay prices above the general auction price. Producing quality and doing special preparations cost more, and we want to give the farmers incentives to continue working on improvements and quality control.

About Ethiopia

By Morten Wennersgaard

IMG_7341General information

Ethiopia lies at longitude 30 – 50 degrees and latitudes 3-15 degrees. It covers an area of 1.1 million square kilometers. It’s the second largest populated country in Africa with more than 82 million inhabitants. The two main growing areas is in the west and south as well as there is production in Harar towards the east.
Ethiopia can produce up to 300 tons of green coffee. More than 75% is sundried (naturals). They consume a significant amount domestically, and about 60% of production is exported. There is more than 1.1 million coffee farmers (smallholders) representing 95% of the production. The rest is mostly state owned farms, but the number of private estates are picking up. There is about 150 farms, 200 cooperative wet mills, 500 private wet mills, and thousands of private collectors for sundried coffees.

There are only farm owners and Unions, representing the Cooperatives, that’s allowed to export trace able coffees direct. All private wetmills, that buys cherries from small holders have to sell their coffees through the ECX (Ethiopian Commodity Exchange) where they are bought by private exporters and sold as non trace -able coffees by grade and area.
Ethiopia’s coffee growing areas are divided in to zones (region) and woredas (local community). A coffee from the Sidama Zone could typically be from the Bokasso Cooperative in Wonsho (the woreda). All Cooperatives relates to a Union that markets and sell the coffees on the Cooperatives behalf. Sidamo Cooperative coffees are sold and exported through the Sidamo Union, Yirgacheffe through the Yirgacheffe Union and the rest mostly through the Oromia Union. Every woreda (community) have a local office where the government and Unions have representatives to support and control the Coops and wet mills as well as oversee the trade of cherries. They do audits and follow up management at site. All coffees have to be inspected and graded by the ECX before moved to the warehouse and dry mill. This goes for both direct exports and coffees sold through the ECX.

New Cooperative in Jimma

The coffee regions

The west

The west represents about 46% of Ethiopias total production. It includes regions like Jimma, Kaffa, Illubabor, Wellega, Bench Maji and others. In the west you basically have three major types of farming. For higher altitudes it’s forest coffees grown “wild”  or semi- forest coffes grown at smallholder blocks. Both are coffee of ancient trees, rarely pruned. Organic fertilizer can be common in smallholder blocks. For larger farms you have more recent varieties and dense planting . Mostly found in lower altitudes.

Sorting parchment under shade in Jimma

Except for certain areas the west are typically known to produce sundried coffees of average to lower qualities. Still, there are some great washed coffees coming out of this region these days. Technoserve, an NGO supporting farmers and cooperatives, are active in establishing washing stations in areas where they traditionally do sundried coffees. The quality potential is huge and some of these coffees have great and unique attributes not to be found elsewhere. The altitudes can be more than 2000 masl, with perfect growing conditions. As they represent a great range of flavor profiles this development is worth following up closely.

The South

The well-known areas in the south, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe is known for it’s clean, floral and acidity driven washed coffees and “high quality” sundried with genuine and unique fruit and berry flavors. The south represents 45% of the total Ethiopian coffee production. Most of the Cooperatives in these areas are Organic and/or Fair-trade certified as well as UTZ and Rainforest Alliance is picking up. Majority of the quality coffee is sold as Sidamo or Yirgacheffe Grade – 2 for washed and Grade – 3  for unwashed.
There are mainly small family plots of both recently planted trees of improved varietals and traditional old varieties. Organic fertilizer is common, pruning less common.

Traditional Cooperative wetmill in Sidamo

Yirgacheffee has become the brand name of coffees in the Gedeo Zone bordering Sidamo. A lot of the coffee in Yirgacheffe is shade grown at high altitudes. The area is pretty dense in terms of smallholders and wet mills. There is 23 cooperatives in the area, with a total of about 60000 members. They cover about 28500 hectares of coffee and produce about 1300 tons of greens. Majority of the coffees are washed, but there is small amounts of sundried coffees as well.

Sidamo covers a pretty big area with very different growing conditions. You can find highland areas of forest coffees in remote places as well as pretty dense production in the more well known areas like Aleto Wondo, Darra and Dale.
There is currently about 50 Cooperatives in Sidamo with a total of 90000 members and a bunch of privates. The cooperatives are able to produce about 2000 tons of greens. Both washed and sundried is common, but here as in Yirgacheffe the majority of the coffee is washed.

The East

Harar accounts for 10% of Ethiopias coffee production and is all sundried. According to history the coffee grew wild here long time before it was cultivated. Coffees from Harar are widely known for its typical blueberry notes and intense fruit flavors. Still I have to admit it can be difficult to find a totally clean and transparent coffee from this area, but thats according to my personal preference and our requirements. If they are able to control the process and trade I’m sure there is potential here. Smallholders typically grow the coffee, and most of it’s traded by local collectors and sold through the ECX. They are famous for the so called varietal Harar longberry.

Coffee varietals

The varieties are referred to as Ethiopian Heirloom and seem to be a myriad of local native Typica hybrids and new improved varietals based on the old strains. In Sidama they grow Sidamo-type, in Yirgacheffe Yirga-type, in Limu it’s different selections of Limu-type and so on. There are selections with numbers such as Selection 74110 and 74140, F59, some areas grow Geisha, there are varieties with local names such as Gammadro Local and hundreds of others. You have different type of farming that will determine if you have old native varieties or new selections. The Typica variety is known to be a low yielding plant compared to for instance Bourbon varieties.

Growing conditions and production

In general the production of the smallholders are low at about 1,5 kg of cherries per tree. However, this year the crop is big and yields are therefore closer to 3 kg of cherry pr tree. This will be slightly above a 1/2 kg of greens. A typical farmer could have a half hectar and about 600 trees or less.  Organic fertilizer is in general common except from some areas with “wild” forest coffees. Pruning is less common. Many of the trees are extremely old, and not always able to give a great yield, but in general a lot could be done with right pruning, mulching and inputs. You often see huge trees hardly carrying cherries. There is a bi annual cycle and some trees only carries crop every second year.


Forest coffees
• “wild” grown coffees from ancient trees that are never pruned or fertilized. It’s allocated to the farmers by the local government and often farmed communally. Mostly found in the west in areas such as Kaffa and Illubabor. It represents about 10% of Ethiopia’s production and gives a yield at 250 kg of greens pr hectare on the average.

Semi forest farming
• Coffee of forest origin transferred to family smallholder plots. Organic fertilizer is common, but hardly any pruning. Normally found in the west. Represents 35% of Ethiopia’s production and gives a yield at 350 kg of greens pr Hectare on the average.

Smallholders farming garden coffees

Garden farming
• More recently planted trees of both traditional and improved varietals. Organic fertilizer is common, pruning less common. Farmed on family smallholder plots like in other East African countries. Dominant in Sidama, Yirgacheffe and Harar. Represents 50% of Ethiopia’s production and gives a yield at 450 kg of greens pr Hectare on the average.

Plantation farming
• Mainly recently planted coffee of improved varietals. Production is more dense and it’s farmed under intensive management. Most common in the lower altitudes in the west. Farms are mostly state owned but private investments is picking up. Represents 5% of Ethiopia’s production and gives a yield at 650 kg of greens pr Hectare on the average.

Smallholders delivering cherries at a wetmill in Jimma

Cherry reseption

The main harvest normally starts early November and they harvest throughout January.
The majority of the sundried coffees are sold to local collectors. But private wet mills and cooperatives can purchase cherries and do both processes. For the cherries going to wetmills there are different ways depending on where you are. In the south the cherry purchase is normally done at collection sites. Even the cooperatives buy their cherries from members, and non-members at the local collection site, side by side with local collectors reselling to the private mills. It’s regulated by law, and in Sidama it’s not allowed to buy cherries elsewhere. This creates a competition. You can often see the privates have higher buying price than the cooperatives, but the quality can be poorer. The incentives for a member to sell to the Cooperatives are the dividend they will get as a second payment after the Coops receive their premium for the coffee. Current price for a kg of cherrie is 75 cts and the higher dividend can reach 20 cts pr kg of cherry delivered. This allow the Cooperatives to be more strict on quality as well. For the Cooperative wetmills in the west the cherries can be delivered straight to the washing stations, but even here the members have collection sites for the more remote areas.

Cherries arrived at a Yirgacheffe Cooperative from collection center

Fermentation, washing and drying

Wet fermentation
The traditional way of process washed coffees in Ethiopia is wet fermentation. The coffees are pulped by Agaarde four disc pulper or similar. The coffees are after their pulped separated in water by density in to three different grades. The heavier beans goes straight to the fermentation tank for grade 1, second and third grade is pulped again before separated in to the fermentation tank for grade 2, and grade 3 normally goes straight to the drying beds as low grades.

Traditional Agaarde 3 disc pulper

The tanks with grade 1 and 2 are filled with water to cover the parchment and floaters are skimmed off. They ferment under water up to 48 hours. Normally the water is changed two to three times during fermentation. After fermentation they are washed and graded again in the washing channels before soaked in water for up to 24 hours. The process requires huge amounts of water and takes up a lot of space for a long time. It’s also a risk of tainted coffee if the water is polluted. We have seen some great coffees processed this way, and if done properly it can be beautiful. Still, there are trials done to see if the coffees can be dry fermented (without added water) and this can reduce fermentation time to about 30 hours. Coffees will then be washed and soaked in clean water up to 24 hours before going to the drying tables.

Coffees are washed to remove remaining mucilage and graded by density in washing channels

Parchment normally get skin dried for 4-6 hours and sorted for defects easier to be seen when parchment is wet. After skin drying they are normally dried on jute clothings on raised tables with steel net or bamboo constructed top layer. Normal drying time is 7 to 10 days depending on the weather. Parchment have to be covered in plastic at night and during mid day to avoid the intense sun cracking it up.

Fermentation tanks, soaking tanks and drying tables.

Eco pulpers
Many of the pre existing Cooperatives will probably change from traditional disc pulpers to eco pulpers. All new Cooperatives structured by Technoserve do the same. They mainly uses Penagos, a compact eco pulper with demucilager. After the cherries are pulped and demucilaged they goes straight to the soaking tank in clean water to stay over night or longer.
Parchment are skin dried, sometimes under shade in the Western regions, parchment are hand sorted before moved to drying tables under sun. Again coffees have to be covered up at night and during mid day. Early in the season they have some challenges with short rains during drying and have to be careful and quick to cover up the coffees in time.

New wetmill in limu with Penagos Ecopulper and soaking tanks

Sundried (unwashed)
Cherries should be spread out in thin layers on raised tables and constantly moved during the first stage. Drying should go quickly first couple of days and then slowed down. Cherries are dried up to 15 days. Except from a few producers the cherrie quality seems to be poor as they are not separated and the layers during drying can be to thick. The Cooperatives are able and willing to do high quality on demand. This coffees are hulled at local mills before they go in to the Governmental dry mill or to private exporters for cleaning and grading.

Sundrying unwashed coffees

Parchment separation
Normally they will mix the daily lots randomly after drying according to the different grade coming from the pulper. All the Technoserve assisted Coops uses trace ability sheets to monitore and evaluate the process. After drying the parchment is normally stored in local warehouses at site until they have enough to send to the mill. Lot separation can vary, but 225 – 420 bags of parchment is normal for the pre excisting cooperatives in the south, and 150 bags of parchment more common in the west. We hope to work with the Coops to downsize the parchment lots to be able to separate the better qualities. Coffees are then trucked to the local ECX to get graded before it’s moved to the assigned warehouse at the mill. All coffees through the Unions are currently trucked and stored in Addis, and the climate and warehouse conditions are acceptable. They are constructing a new mill and warehouse for the Unions in the south.

Handsorting green coffee at the drymill

Grades and qualitites

The system of grading in Ethiopia is a little confusing as it is a mix of number of defects, processing method and cup quality. The standard grades for export is Grade-1 to Grade-5. Normally washed coffees will be exported as Grade-1 (uncommond) and Grade -2 (standard). Unwashed will be exported as Grade-3 to Grade-5. After processing the coffees as grades 1-3 at the wetmills it will be analyzed and approoved at the local ECX lab. A typical coffee from Yirgacheffe or Sidamo approoved as Grade-2 for exports will be a mix of the grade 1 and 2 from the wetmill. Exportable coffee approoved as Grade-1 would normally be a special preparation. Here it’s only 0-3 defects allowed. Standard dry mill preparation for Grade-2 is screen size 14 up and 4-12 secondary defects pr 300 grams.  An unwashed coffee from Sidamo can be sold as Grade-3, with the same requirements for screen size and defects as for washed coffees Grade-2. Unwashed coffees from Jimma and the other western regions will normally be sold as Grade-4 or 5.

As a buyer it’s possible to ask for improoved preparations if you are willing to pay the extra cost. We will probably over time do some top quality Grade-2 and Grade-3′s  with 0-3 defects and screen size 15 up.

Konga Cooperative / Ethiopia

he Konga Coop has a very well organized washing station in the heart of Yirgacheffe. Its located at 1850 meters above sea level, but they claim to be harvesting coffees up to 2300 meeters altitude. It’s a relatively big Cooperative with about 2300 meters. They have really strong management and is considered as one of the more successful cooperatives in the area.

The traditional way of fermenting coffees in Ethiopia, specially in the south, is wet fermentation. The coffees are then washed and graded before soaked again under clean water. Can take up to 70 hours or more in total.

The traditional way of fermenting coffees in Ethiopia, specially in the south, is wet fermentation. Meaning they stay under water after pulping for up to 36 hours. The coffees are then washed and graded before soaked again under clean water. Can take up to 70 hours or more in total after picking. And it requires a lot of water and a good water source.

All cooperatives in Ethiopia belong to a Union that is the seller and exporter of the coffee. They also take care of dry milling and grading before exports. Most Yirgacheffe Cooperatives belongs to the Yirgacheffe coffee growers Cooperative union. The management of the Yirgacheffe Union is really hands on this days, and is really supportive to both the growers, the Cooperative wet mills as well as they follow up on us as buyers.

Cooperative: Konga

Zone, Woreda/Local municipality: Gedeo, Yirgacheffe

Altitude: Coffee grown at 1900 – 2300 masl

Producers: About 2400 smallholders.

Varietals: Ethiopian Heirloom. Improved varietals and native coffee of forest origin transferred to family smallholder plots and gardens. In this case they refer to it as Yirgacheffe type.

Grade: Screen 14 and up.

Production: Pulped and wet fermented, graded in washing channels, soaked in water, sundried.

Process: Cherries are hand sorted for unripes and overripes by the farmers before they go into production. A 5 disc Aagaarde pulper removes the skin and pulp. The coffee is then fermented underwater for 24-36 hours, depending on weather conditions. It’s then graded in washing channels in to two grades based on density. It is then soaked under clean water in tanks for 12-24 hours.

Drying: Sun dried 10 – 15 days days on African drying beds on hessian cloths. Coffees are covered in plastic during midday and at night.

Soil: Volcanic deposits, rich in minerals and nitrogen.

Notes: The coffee is organic certified. They have improved their quality standards with great success in recent years.

Cupping notes: Jasmine, coffee flower, black tea and citric aromas. Spicy with pointed acidity profile. Has a range of classic Yirgacheffe flavors like bergamot, hints of floral black tea, jasmine, rosehip and lemon. It’s transparent, lively and delicate with highly complex fruit notes, great intensity and juiciness.

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