Coffee Production in Yirgacheffe
Coffee grown in the many districts and kebeles of the Gedeo Zone is often referred to as Heirloom varieties, many of which were propagated and distributed to farmers in the last 40 years. Read more about common Ethiopian coffee varieties. Trees grow in red brown fertile soil under the shade of many tree species including Bibira, Cordia Africana, and the subsistence crop Ensete ventricosum.
In the southern region of Ethiopia, farmers pick coffee selectively, harvesting only ripe cherries individually by hand. Pickers rotate among the trees every eight to ten days, choosing only the cherries which are at peak ripeness.
Many pickers average approximately 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherries a day, which will produce 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans. Each worker’s daily haul is carefully weighed, and each picker is paid on the merit of his or her work. The day’s harvest is then transported to the processing plant.
Biloya washing station is named for the town, called a kebele, of Kore Biloya where it is located, in the Kochere district of the greater Yirgacheffe coffee area within the Gedeo Zone. Coffees brought to the Biloya washing station are grown between 1700-2000 meters above sea level by the 211 smallholders delivering cherry to Biloya who grow coffee on farms roughly 0.5-2.0 hectares in size. Built in 2001, Biloya processes nearly one million kg of coffee cherries per year. The washing station’s 138 raised drying beds cover the 2.5 hectares of land at 1700 masl. Biloya employs both men and women to process both Washed and Natural Coffee.
Ripe coffee cherries are freshly sorted before depulping. Over-ripe and under-ripe beans are handpicked and separated before processing. After depulping, coffee is allowed to ferment naturally for 36-72 hours in Biloya’s 12 cement fermentation tanks. The fermented coffee is washed with clean running water, soaked in clean water, and then dried for 18-21 days to retain around 11.5% moisture. The fresh water used for washing coffee has a ph of 7.8.
The cherries delivered to the washing station and resulting parchment are sluiced and floated multiple times to ensure that the cup profile is as clean and consistent as possible. The station is also partially shielded from the sun by the nearby mountain, which lends itself to slower drying of washed process coffees. This reduces the amount of split parchment and results in a cleaner and sweeter cup. Dried parchment coffee is stored at the washing station warehouse until it is transported to Addis Ababa for further processing. The parchment coffee is processed at the dry mill to remove the husks and the clean beans are packaged in clearly marked 60kg bags for export.
Coffee is prepared 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. Beans pass through a final hand sort on conveyor belts. The plant’s six storage silos have a capacity of roughly 15,000 metric tons. The warehouses are clean, with ample lighting and ventilation, which are ideal for maintaining the quality of the coffee.