Jorge in Ethiopia

From my early day visits to the coffee farms, to now, 10 years of learning about this industry and the product we love so much – Coffee. In this industry we have come to learn so many terms and phases:
from “the age of discovery” to “commercialization”, “secret stimulate leaf” to “the great commodity”, from “the first wave of coffee” to “third wave” now the “fifth wave” and all the other waves in between. A term that has become more and more relevant in the front line of any conversation in the premium coffee trade is TRACEABILITY. Well to know that coffee is not from Italy is not news and almost the whole world knows now.

So as the waves of coffee elevate and surf in the search to maximize the experience of this great product, we evolve with the rest of the world. Today Africans are in the search of recognition, reward, value and every time we demand traceability it is obviously a demanded for quality.

Traceability is – the capability to trace, the ability to verify a story source or location.

On the 26th of November I was given an awesome opportunity – to be Origin Coffee Roasting’s representative on a visit the coffee farms that we purchase our green beans from.

In collaboration with Mercanta, a team of various roasters and members of the coffee association from around the world, headed to the mother land of coffee – Ethiopia. From Addis to Hawasa from Hawasa to various other towns and districts.

The team traveling Ethiopia was:
Paul Haworth
Cera Jung
Junghoon Choi
Eddie Twitchet
Chao Huang
Grant Rattray
And from myself (Jorge Alberto)

We all joined Adham and Phaisel the Owners of Testi – local exporter that owns washing stations farms and cooperatives.

Team in Ethiopia
The team travelling to Ethiopia (photo by Grant Rattray)

We all had various common aspects, being in the same field we all love Coffee, we all agreed that Ethiopia produces great (if not the greatest) coffee, much more we all agreed to join hands and work together in getting farmers to understand that TRACEBILITY is crucial.

When we segregate humans, humanity loses. With coffee from farmers, roasters and baristas the idea is to eliminate variables. The ECS (Ethiopian Coffee Specialty) use to be the center point and the end point of all coffee trade in Ethiopia. The idea was to protect the farmers from brutal exports and perhaps the quality and the national coffee brand, but unfortunately this caused mixing of coffees according to grades and limited the information of the source of each all coffees from Ethiopia.

When ECS use to be sole trader of the coffee in Ethiopia, no one was able to deal directly with farmers, their details were lost in the attempt to simplify the operation. Well that does not favor us, the roasters. We benefit a lot from the information from farmers’ coffee processing or practices, farmers’ profile location, altitude and coffee varietals. Companies and people around the world like us too also care, not only that the farmers get their worth, but that we can interact with the farmers directly and demand from each other more or better practices such as consistence of quality.

Where we are born is the foundation of our identity and that is what the traceability of coffee does – allows us to identify Coffees Farmers Location who can then be rewarded for their work. ECS now operates as a central lab store and trade processor. Farmers, exporters and co-ops can now trade their coffees directly with purchasers but ECS is responsible for determining or confirming that all is done correctly to preserve the quality and make sure standards of specialty are practiced. The farmer will then be given the opportunity to recollect their coffee for exports or to give ECS the power to trade for them. A great part of this change by ECS is the fact that the identities of the coffee are now preserved – my farm, my trees, my varietals, my practices, my recognition says the Farmer. And the farmer should rightly always be able to say so.

Traceability is very important to myself and Origin. All of the coffees we roast, pour and sell are traceable, and we have focused on this from day one. In the future myself and Origin hope to see more companies and people in the coffee industry focus on traceability.