White chocolate, nougat and boysenberry jam.
Farm: Banko Chelchele
Elevation: 1,900 masl
Varieties: Wolisho, Dega, Kudhumi, JARC 74110, 74112
Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
This coffee was produced by Tarekech Werasa, who grows and processes coffee on her 4.9-hectare farm, Banko Chelchele. Tarekech’s farm is named after the local kebele (local village) of Banko Chelchele, where the farm is found, in the woreda (administrative district) of Gedeb, in the Yirgacheffe region of the Gedeo political zone, which is part of Ethiopia’s Southern Nationalities, Nations, and People’s Region. The farm is privately owned and operated by Tarekech and her family.
Being able to purchase a lot from a single producer in Ethiopia is rare and incredibly special. Most farmers are not able to connect to buyers directly, and must sell their cherry at local washing stations where it is combined with other farmers’ lots, losing transparency and distinction. To access support to process and market her coffee separately, Tarekech joined the Lalisaa Project, an initiative that aims to provide opportunity and resources for smallholder farmers and to connect them to overseas buyers like MCM directly. Head here to learn more about this incredible program and their work in the region.
Tarekech established her farm in 1990, and has spent most of her time since relying on brokers to sell her crop. Though she admits to have been wronged by them on numerous times, she has persevered with her farm and is extremely proud of her coffee. Her situation stabilised when direct trade regulations changed in 2018 and she subsequently joined The Lalisaa Project, allowing her to connect more directly to the international market. Tarekech believes that whoever tries her coffee will fall in love with it immediately – and we couldn’t agree more!
Tarekech’s farm sits at 1,900m above sea level. This high elevation of the farm, combined with the region’s cool climate is ideal for the slow ripening of coffee cherries, leading to denser beans and a sweeter, more complex cup profile. Coffee is grown as a cash crop, alongside other food crops like corn, grain and bananas. The coffee is intercropped amongst native forest and grows under the shade of Birbira, Wanza, and Acacia trees. Like many Ethiopian smallholder farmers, Tarekech uses organic farming practices that rely heavily on the manual labour of her and her family.
About the Gedeo Zone
The Gedeo Zone is located in southwest Ethiopia, in the SNNPR political region, and is named after the Gedeo people. Historically, coffee from Gedeo has been classified both as “Sidama” and “Yirgacheffe,” with the latter being its most famous coffee-growing woreda, and one of the country’s three trademarked region. With average temperatures between 15-18oC and healthy annual rainfalls, Gedeo is well-suited to coffee-growing. Most coffee is part of a family’s ‘coffee garden,’ and grows alongside other food crops in environments nearly free of fertilisers and pesticides. These lots grow in iron-rich, acidic soils and receive shade from native trees such as Cordia Africana, Acacia, and Ensete trees.
Gedeo is bordered on all sides by the Oromia political region, except for its north, where it is bordered by the Sidama political region. It includes well-known coffee-growing woredas such as Yirgacheffe, Kochere and Gedeb.
About the Varieties
This coffee is a mix of three locally recognised native varieties, Wolisho (or Walichu/Welisho), Dega, and Kudhumi, and two JARC varieties, 74110 and 74112.
For many years, most Ethiopian coffee has only been described as being a mix of varieties that we refer to as “heirloom varieties.” This is a term that is all-encompassing and used by many actors in the coffee industry to generally categorise Ethiopian coffee varieties that are from native forest origins. Whilst this describes many of the varieties found in Ethiopia, it is also a bit simplistic and does not acknowledge the varieties that are already locally recognised and cultivated, or those that have been specifically developed and widely distributed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC).
Ethiopia is home to many native or “landrace” varieties in the region that were originally selected from the forest and have been propagated in the Sidama region for decades. There are five popular ones that all have been named after indigenous trees in the area— Bedessa, Kudhumi, Mique, Sawe and Wolisho. There is little documentation on the history of these varieties, and it is hard to know if they represent single varieties or a wider group of varieties; however, it is widely accepted that they play a major role in the quality and floral flavour profile of the coffee from this region. Along with these, JARC varieties were developed using “mother trees” from Ethiopia’s coffee forests, and are now grown for disease and pest resistance, as well as exceptional cup profile, and are released by number. For example, 74110, 74112 and 74116 are all widely propagated in the Sidama growing region.
About the Processing
This coffee was processed using the natural method; a complex process requiring a high level of attention to detail in order to be done well. Ethiopian coffee has been processed this way by generations of farmers who have mastered the art of the natural method through centuries of tradition and experience.
In collaboration with Lalisaa Project, Tarekech employs best practices to dry her natural processed coffees, as the aim is to produce high quality, exportable grade coffee. This coffee is classified as Grade 1, indicating that a lot of effort has been put into the selection, grading and drying to ensure the very highest quality coffee is produced.
Each day, Tarekech and her team selectively handpick the ripest red cherries. The cherries are meticulously hand-sorted prior to processing to remove unripe, overripe, or damaged fruit, in order to enhance the quality and sweetness of the cup.
The coffee is then graded by weight and spread evenly on raised African beds (screens) to dry in the sun. Initially, it is laid very thinly and turned regularly to ensure consistent drying and prevent over-fermentation. This is done very carefully to avoid damage to the fruit.
After a few days, when the coffee has reached 25% humidity—this is called the “raisin stage”—the layers of coffee are gradually increased. Careful attention and control during this drying phase ensures the coffee is stable and that a clean and balanced cup profile is achieved. The coffee is turned constantly whilst drying to ensure that it dries evenly and consistently. At midday, the coffee is covered to protect it from full sun. It is also covered overnight to prevent damage from morning dew.
Once the coffee reaches the optimum moisture level (usually over 2-4 weeks, depending on weather conditions), it is moved to an onsite warehouse where it is rested (or ‘conditioned’) before being transported to the dry mill to be hulled and sorted before export.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
Since 2018, regulation changes within the Ethiopian coffee industry have allowed smallholder producers and coffee washing stations to export coffee directly to the international market, rather than through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). While the ECX has provided stability and opportunity for many Ethiopian coffee farmers, it does not service the specialty market well, as there is an inherent lack of transparency and traceability in its auction model, and more points for potential corruption or confusion between the producing communities and the final buyer.
The recent changes enable a more streamlined coffee supply chain and provide an opportunity for the increased traceability and transparency of coffee trade in Ethiopia. Beyond this, producers who market and trade their coffee directly can access higher prices and more direct payments for their coffees. All of the coffee MCM purchase in Ethiopia is bought outside of the ECX system.
This coffee was sourced through MCM's on-the-ground Ethiopian supply partner, Sucafina Ethiopia, who help connect MCM to single estates, privately owned washing stations and quality-focused exporters in different regions of Ethiopia. Based in Addis Ababa, Sucafina Ethiopia work as a service provider connecting local farmers and exporters (colloquially known as ‘shippers’) with international buyers like MCM. By Ethiopian law, they (and other foreign-owned entities) are not permitted to buy cherries directly, or to own washing stations or mills; however, their expertise is invaluable in coordinating multiple shippers, ensuring quality standards are met and handling all logistics in the preparation and local transport of our coffees. Through our shared commitment to responsible sourcing practices, quality and traceability, MCM have been connected to likeminded shippers, who work to produce delicious and consistent coffees while running social programs that directly and meaningfully support coffee farmers and their families.