Sonkolle Kebele, Ethiopia - 8 oz Bag
Sonkolle Kebele, Ethiopia - 8 oz Bag
Varieties: Ethiopia Heirloom
Elevation: 2200 MASL
Region: Uraga (Guji, Sidamo)
This particular lot from the Uraga Mill located in the village Sonkolle Kebele is the most recent reminder of the beauty of coffee from Ethiopia. In our four years of sourcing coffee from Ethiopia this year’s harvest has certainly been on of the best (if not the best) of the overall cup quality in our sourcing process. We cupped incredible cup after incredible cup, but kept coming back to this coffee because of it’s stunning complexity and clarity. We couldn’t be happier to roast it and share it with you.
From Nordic Approach (Importer):
Uraga is both the name of the greater area and this specific washing station. It’s located in the Sonkolle Kebele (village) in Guji. The Washing Station is located above 2000 masl, and the farms are located at even higher altitudes. We have seen great improvements in quality in this part of Guji lately. There are a lot of new plantings in the area and even though the process here is traditional, with wet fermentation, grading in channels by water and drying on raised beds, the coffee is shining with unique character. The producer, Israel Degfa, is investing in both supporting local farmers and their communities, and in post-harvest development and quality control.
Uraga Washing Station took us by surprise a few years ago with truly unique flavor attributes. It’s part of our premium program in Ethiopia for several reasons. Firstly, the location is fantastic in terms of access to quality cherries. It is located in a remote area that is hard to access, and just getting coffees out of there is a challenge. Due to the high altitudes they were harvesting and producing coffee in the area until February, whilst most other places end the season in December. We believe that the altitude and the cold nights have an impact on both maturation of the cherries and the fermentation and drying.
Secondly, the management is really strong and they put a lot of pride and effort in to producing outstanding coffees. Even though it’s a relatively new washing station, they are producing great volumes. They have a high percentage of Grade 1 coffees, both Naturals and Washed compared to other washing stations. The cherries are brought by surrounding farmers who either deliver cherries directly to the washing station, or to a Uraga collection centre in the more remote areas. Farmers are immediately paid a small premium for higher quality cherries/pickings, and most farmers here are registered for a second payment after the coffee is sold with a quality premium. They produce greater volumes of Washed coffees the first part of the harvest, and Naturals in the later part of the harvest.
Every day of production they differentiate what goes in to the improved and better quality lots (Grade 1) from the normal preparation for Grade 2 and Grade 3. Israel has invested in flotations systems for cherries and systematically separates some of the coffees for better performance on-site. These coffees are assigned to a quality team who will ensure they are processed carefully. They generally do lot separation based on 150 bags of parchment, equal to 100 bags of greens, but they often manage smaller lot sizes as well, especially for Honeys, shade-dried or other improved preparations.
Our partners: We have been working with Israel Degfa for several years, a young business man with a sure and steady focus. When the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) operated in a way that obscured the origins of coffee, Israel was more focused on producing high volumes. However he predicted the eventual opening up of the ECX and several years ago shifted his focus to quality. He hired a separate team dedicated to specialty, and built a dry mill specifically to process specialty and micro-lots. Finally, in 2017, the coffee market in Ethiopia was opened to allow businessmen like Israel to sell directly to importers like Nordic Approach, and Israel was ready with high quality and fully traceable coffees.
Israel runs more than 30 washing stations in Ethiopia, and after several years of working together we have narrowed our focus to a handful of specific regions and washing stations where we know we can expect quality, and Israel gives us priority. We pre-contract and book coffees at the start of the harvest to both demonstrate our commitment, and to increase our access to the best coffees. With up-front investment, the producers are able to budget and invest more in quality control and improved processing and selection.
Many of Israel's washing stations are great simply due to their location and altitude, and he is building on this potential quality by investing in better systems and protocols. To maintain quality standards Israel has invested in a modern warehouse and dry mill in Addis. There he has separate areas for washed and naturals, as well as for specialty and for the normal commodity. He also purchased high-tech colour sorters, and built a quality control lab, all to produce and maintain high quality lots.
Every day of production Israel’s team differentiates what goes into the improved and better qualities (Grade 1) from the normal preparation for Grade 2 and Grade 3. Flotation systems separate some of the coffees on-site for better performance. These coffees are assigned a quality team to carefully tend to their processing. They generally do lot separation based on 150 bags of parchment, equal to 100 bags of greens, but they also do smaller lot sizes, especially for honey, shade-dried or other improved preparations. The coffees are separated according to the days and areas of harvest as well as by preparation.
The farmers: About thousand smallholder farmers deliver small quantities of cherries on a daily basis to the communal washing station, or to collection centers in the nearby villages. The average farm size for producers delivering to the Uraga washing station is 2 - 3 hectares, which is larger than the average farm in Ethiopia. These semi-forest farms have red clay soil and coffee grows amongst Kerero, Tikur Enchet, Besena and Berbera tree. Most coffees are organic by default. Organic compost is common, pruning less common. A farmer can typically have fewer than 1500 trees per hectare, and one tree typically produces a quantity of cherries equal to less than 100 - 200 grams of green coffee.
The cultivars: Farmers deliver a mix of local improved varieties like Certo and local Wolisho, plus native forest varieties that have been transferred to family smallholder plots. The varieties are referred to collectively as Ethiopian Heirloom, which is a myriad of local native Typica hybrids, plus new and improved varieties based on the old strains.
Post-Harvest Processing Washed:
Harvest and cherry selection
Coffee cherries are harvested by family members, then hand-sorted to remove unripes and overripe cherries before they are delivered to the washing station for processing. Israel generally pays a higher price for good quality cherries, normally 2-4 Birr/kg on top of the general cherry prices.
Pulping and pre-grading
The cherries are pulped by a traditional Agaarde Discpulper. Skin and fruit pulp are removed before the machine grades the parchment in water as 1st or 2nd quality, determined by density.
The parchment is fermented in water for 36-72 hours. Fermentation is slower at higher altitudes as temperatures are generally lower.
Washing and grading in channels
Coffees are washed in channels, and graded in water by density. The lower density (lower quality) will float and are removed, leaving only the denser and therefore higher quality beans which are separated as higher grade lots.
Soaked under clean water
Parchment is then soaked in tanks in clean water for 6-12 hours before it is moved to the drying tables.
Drying and handsorting
Parchment is dried on raised beds in the sun for 12 - 15 days. The time depends on the thickness of the layers and temperatures. For the premium grades they will continuously sort the parchment at the drying tables. Coffees are piled up and covered in shade nets or plastic during the hottest hours of the day and overnight.
**Coffee roasts and ships on Wednesday.