Built in 2001, Biloya washing station processes nearly one million kg of coffee cherries per year from 211 contributing smallholder producers. 138 raised drying beds cover the 2.5 hectares of land. When ripe cherries arrive, they are hand sorted to separate the less dense cherries.
Coffees brought to the Biloya washing station are grown between 1700-2000 meters above sea level. There are several tiers of drying tables on the slope below the washing station and Biloya’s workers turn and sort the cherries by hand as the coffees dry on raised beds. The mesh material allows for airflow both above and below the coffee to prevent the formation of any mildew or mold. It takes between 18 and 21 days for cherries to dry. Naturally processed coffees are milled to remove the dried cherry pulp and parchment at once, then stored in a warehouse 50cm from the wall and 15cm from the floor before transport to the final processing warehouse in Addis Ababa where it is color sorted and packed for shipment.
Biloya employs both men and women and the 211 smallholders delivering cherry to Biloya grow coffee on farms that average roughly 0.5-2 hectares in size with common shade trees Bibira, Cordia Africana, and the subsistence crop Ensete ventricosum. Biloya washing station is named for the town, called a kebele, of Biloya where it is located, in the Kochere district of the greater Yirgacheffe coffee area.
Kurume is one of Ethiopia’s regional landrace varieties from Yirgacheffe. Surveys carried out between 1989 and 1994 help identify local landraces by name. Prior to the 1970’s there was essentially no intentional breeding or variety selection at a national level in Ethiopia; individual farmers selected seeds locally to reproduce their crop. But a devastating epidemic of coffee berry disease in the 1960’s led researchers to establish the Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC) and begin cataloging coffee trees that demonstrated resistance to both coffee berry disease and drought as well as producing high yields.
These selections were approached as a national crop improvement program, but in the fields the newly selected and resistant varieties did not perform optimally in climates different from that of Jimma, where the plants had been bred. Researchers at JARC pivoted, cataloging and selecting local landrace varieties that were both naturally suited to the environments where they already grew and representative of the cup flavor profiles of Ethiopia’s many coffee growing regions.
Kurume is one of the regional landraces identified in the Yirgacheffe area. As with many regional landraces, the names applied to the coffee varieties are borrowed from the names of indigenous trees. The Kurume tree bears small fruit with a good annual year, similar to Kurume coffee’s small cherries and bountiful harvest. Kurume is a commonly grown variety among farmers in Guji and Gedeo, which includes Yirgacheffe. Sometimes, the Kurume name is applied to JARC-selected varieties due to the similarities in the trees’ appearance.
Dega is another regional landrace named for an indigenous tree. The wood of the Dega tree omits a sweet, fragrant aroma when burned for firewood, similar to the smell of coffee roasting. The Amharic word “dega” means “cool highland area,” which is also applicable to the agroecological conditions where Dega coffee grows.
Wolisho is yet another regional landrace named for a tree indigenous to Gedeo and the surrounding area. This tree bears large fruit with inconsistent yearly yields. Wolisho coffee has large cherries and long leaves.
Coffee from Biloya is prepped for export at Tracon Trading’s coffee cleaning and storage plant on 30,000 sq meters of land in Addis Ababa. The plant is equipped with modern Pinhalense coffee processing machines and a Buhler Z+ color sorter. The machine has the capacity of processing six tons per hour. All the processing jobs are mechanical and electronic including final hand picking on conveyor belts. The six storage silos of the plant have a capacity of accommodating about 15,000 metric tons of coffee at a time. The warehouses are clean, with ample lighting and ventilation, which are very ideal for keeping the quality of the coffee.