Farm info

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.

Washing Station

The Koke washing station is named for the Koke kebele, or town, where it is located in the Yirgacheffe district of the Gedeo Zone. Ally has a long-standing relationship with the family-owned Koke washing station, which was built in 2011 and has seen many improvements since 2015, when the washing station staff began providing guidance to contributing producers regarding steps to increase coffee quality.  We have been providing feedback to Koke and sourcing with them for more than five years, and we look forward to many more years of fruitful partnership.

The Koke station stands on the side of a hill, with coffee grown above and below the station. For the last three years, the Koke station managers have been separating out the higher elevation cherries for Ally, and the quality clearly shows. 96 small scale farmers provided cherries to Koke this harvest, most of them multi-generational family farmers.

Natural Processing

Coffee cherries delivered to the washing station are first separated by hand to remove the less dense cherries. Then the remaining cherry is taken to Koke’s 89 raised beds to dry in the sun, which takes about 21 days. Tarps are often used to keep the coffee from drying too quickly and losing its beautiful and characteristic cup profile. Natural processed coffee dried with cherry is then milled to remove the husks and stored in the dry mill warehouse. Beans are packaged in clearly marked 60kg bags for export.

Dry Milling

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.

Region

Yirgacheffe

Literally translated as “Land of Many Springs,” Yirgacheffe has the ideal topography, elevation, and water sources to produce and process exceptional coffees. Yirgacheffe is one of the woredas, a district like a municipality or county that includes many towns, of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe is part of the Gedeo Zone of SNNPR and the Yirgacheffe woreda is bordered to the south by Kochere, to the west by Oromia Zone, to the north by Wenago, to the east by Bule, and to the southeast by Gedeb. The Yirgacheffe woreda is 409km from Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa and has a population of almost 200,000 people, less than 10% of whom live in cities.

Coffee farmers in Yirgacheffe are typically multi-generational, small-scale landholders, sometimes with only a few acres of land. Most coffees in Yirgacheffe are sold as cherry to centralized washing stations that help further separate flavor profiles. Many farmers also grow the subsistence crop enset ventricosum, also known as false banana.

Yirgacheffe is considered by many to be the birthplace of coffee and the coffee trees grown in the region are a naturally occurring mix of heirloom varietals cultivated among other species in coffee gardens and coffee forests. Washed Coffee was introduced to Ethiopia in the 1970’s, and Yirgacheffe was the location of the first wet processing mill.

The climate in Yirgacheffe is warm and temperate. In the winter, there is much less rainfall than the summer, with an annual average of 1525mm and a difference of 246mm of precipitation between the wettest and driest months. The average temperature across Yirgacheffe is 18.4 degrees Celsius.