Hunda Oli is a new coffee farmer’s cooperative and is located in the forests of Agaro, Limu in the Oromia region of Western Ethiopia. With an altitude of 2000 metres above sea level and heirloom varieties on their doorsteps, it is by no means surprising that the coffee from this group is excellent with deeply complex nuances dominating the cup. But it hasn’t always been this way. Until recently most of the coffee from this region was rather ordinary – natural processed and unsorted and as such the value of the coffee was limited both financially and within the cup. With the assistance of TechnoServe the farmers have now tapped into the coffee’s undoubted potential and they are now producing truly spectacular lots. Washing stations have been installed and training in cherry selection and processing has been provided. The farmers have increased their income thanks to this excellent coffee that is giving Yirgacheffe and Sidamo specialities a run for their money in the African ‘Taste of Harvest’ coffee cupping competition.
The Hunda Oli smallholder farmers typically have less than 1 hectare of coffee that is shade grown beneath old-growth indigenous trees. In contrast to the heavily managed farms of many origins, Ethiopia coffee has a uniquely wild feel, with heirloom varieties of every shape and size scattered under wild forest cover. Farmers typically grow coffee both for use as a cash drop as well as for home use. An estimated 50% of Ethiopia’s substantial production is consumed domestically, making coffee uniquely central to both the economic and cultural identity of the country. Farmers in Western Ethiopia will typically also farm maize, teff and bananas.
The smallholdings are scattered around the washing station but farmers are able to deliver coffee cherries to one of the cooperative’s collection points. Many members point to this as a tremendous benefit, as previously they were forced to walk long distances to the nearest middleman, who could then offer whatever price he/she wished, usually to the disadvantage of the farmer.
After the washing station purchases the cherry it is pulped within 4-8 hours in a Colombian-manufactured Penagos machine which removes the fruit and 80-90% of the sticky sweet mucilage from the seed. The coffee soaks underwater overnight before being washed again in the morning and put onto shade covered drying tables. Washing station staff then sort the wet parchment coffee, removing under-ripes, insect-damaged beans and any other defective beans. The coffee is then transferred to the final drying tables where it will remain for 7-14 days depending on weather conditions, until the target moisture content is reached. The coffee is stored in the cooperative’s warehouse until a full truckload (150 bags of parchment) is ready for transport to Addis.