Although the memory of my first trip to Ethiopia in 2012 was mostly an overwhelming blur of culture shock, I do remember a number of distinct points about Shakisso outside the realm of coffee. Two of the major mines in Ethiopia are located near it, mining for gold and tantalum (which is used in a lot of electronics), and it’s a critical part of the economy in that area. I saw many a heavily guarded truck moving about during my visit!
Alright, back to coffee. For the last five years, since that trip, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the coffees coming out of Shakisso, each time I visit Ethiopia. I’ve tasted lots of soild coffees but they haven’t held up next to the powerhouses of Yirgacheffe and other areas of Guji, like Kercha and Uraga. This year, though, I finally tasted some really nice coffees from the area, and this coffee was a top performer. There’s plenty of stone fruit and a delicate, elegant grace to it.
Test Trading PLC is new to me, but they have undertaken some commendable initiatives. For example, they helped to fund a school called Denbi Uddo Guji Primary, providing education for 850 students, and they indicate that their future plans include building more schools as well as clean water sources. Great initiatives, in my book. Although my trips to Ethiopia will always prioritize finding and developing coffee quality, over the last few years I have expended an equal effort attempting to better understand the coffee sector of Ethiopia from an ethics point of view.
In that regard, this last (2016/2017) season in Ethiopia was one of the most difficult ones that I’ve witnessed. Ironically, the weather cooperated, and the growing conditions were pretty good, however Ethiopia suffered from major political unrest. Near the beginning of the harvest in mid-October, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency for the first time in 25 years, in response to the growing violent protests all over the country. The protests were mostly in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The latter region of Oromia is the largest coffee growing region in Ethiopia, and the unrest impacted the sector greatly. The reports I heard indicated that 40 washing stations in the Gedeo zone were burnt to the ground. Overall in the country, according to Human Rights Watch, 500 Ethiopians were killed since August 2016, largely in confrontations with military and police. This is tragic news from a country I’ve come to love not just for their amazing coffee but some of the warmest, most genuine people on earth. I truly hope that 2018 proves to be more peaceful for the country.
This green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.