Ethiopia

Posted by tobysadmin in Coffee Trails

The landscape is flat, the road is flat, the flatness stretches out forever and beyond. The only change in the landscape was colour, with brown moving to a light ochre, then opening up to a palette of red and green. The verdant hills are held up by the rich, red topsoil, all set off by a backdrop of impossibly blue sky.

People are always on the move, carrying loads on their heads or shoulders, kids in hand, in front of thatched houses, smoke billowing from fireplaces. Trucks carrying coffee and people headed back to the coffee milling station from Addis Ababa form a regular stream of traffic.

Hours went by as the tyres bumped relentlessly along, and the road went on and on. Eventually we arrived in Yirgacheffe at the hint of dusk.

We dumped our bags and headed down to the main street of the smallish country town with a population of around 12,000. A group of curious kids kept us company, asking questions and answering ours. They’re proud that their town produces the best coffee in the world, and were keen to tell us so.

About a kilometre down the road we realised we’d attracted quite a crowd. It felt like a pilgrimage out to the processing plant, Quangua. In the evening light the surrounding forest looked even darker and dense, and the earthy smell was strong, only broken by a whiff of wood smoke from a fireplace.

It was surreal and I felt like I was floating as we came closer and closer to the plant that would be dry-processing this year’s Yirgacheffe, the coffee that first opened my eyes to what coffee could be. As the evening closed in, the clouds descended and within seconds the rain pelted down. To escape it, we rushed into the nearest bus shelter only to find it was someone’s living room. It was an awkward moment as pairs of eyes stared at us unblinkingly as we tried to apologise.

We arrived at the coffee co-operative washhouse as the light was fading. The coffee sorting continues with an eagerness to get through as many beans as possible before complete darkness falls. The coffee season is limited, which means the more beans that come in and out of the station the more potential income. Eventually though, work had to stop, and they gave in to the natural cycle of the day.

Toby Smith, Founder