This wonderful coffee with intense fruit notes is produced by Upstream's partners GnF at their Konga Sede Washing Station, in the heart of Yirgacheffe - just a couple of miles away from the town that gave name to this world-renown coffee. The station is managed by Yirgalen Melid, who has been working there for almost 20 years. A producer himself, he coordinates the arrivals of coffee during the harvest, and the processing of the beans according to the strict quality guidelines.
More than 400 farmers, known as 'outgrowers' deliver their fresh coffee cherries the same day they are picked from the field to the station, whether for washed or natural processing. The farms, small in size, are situated at an elevation between 1,750 and 2,200 meters above sea level. The total annual production of the washing station is around 150 tonnes. The most common variety of tree is known locally as 'Weleso Gurume'.
Growers are paid the first installment on the spot, then many times they stick around to overlook how their beans are processed. During the offseason they are paid a balance previously agreed upon. This is not an imposed condition but rather a mutual arrangement with the farmers to help them plan their domestic finances. They do not have to go through the ECX but the outturn quality test is of the same standard. The additional transport expenses are saved by the outgrowers adding to their bottom line revenue.
GnF is a family producer and they have 4 washing stations. Upstream have been working with them for 3 years and one of the business patterns (Nithya) visited them last year. They have been focussing on consistently high quality and standardising the processing. Upstream encourage roasters to support respective producer programs directly with financial assistance - 'Upstream Endeavour’ is a program wherein they complete the cycle by giving back to the deserving parties in the supply chain.
Google Maps location of the station can be visited here.
Unique coffee, produced ethically, traded transparently.
This coffee is the result of a research project and public-private sector partnership in Uganda aimed at improving the food security of coffee growers and their families through increasing the quality of their coffee and creating access to high value export markets. Our head roaster Adam was privileged enough to be part of the project team and with two other Adelaidians he met 'on the ground' - Eddy and Daniel - (and the immeasurable support of many more) went on to co-found Intersection Traders in order to bring the amazing coffee that has resulted to Australia. In doing so he's had the opportunity to take what he has learned working in specialty coffee over the years and, working with researchers and farmers on the ground - excuse the pun - 'practise what we preach'.
The coffee was grown on the slopes of Mt Elgon - a dormant volcano located in Kapchorwa in the east of Uganda. Literally translated from the local dialect as ‘Home of Friends’, Kapchorwa has a long history of arabica coffee production and is linked directly to coffee producers in Kenya - located on a smaller portion of the very same Mt Elgon and producing some of the highest quality coffee on the market. With strong diurnal temperature variation and two rainy seasons the region possesses optimal conditions for slow coffee development and an amazing environment of waterfalls and lush vegetation. Despite this ability to grow incredibly high quality coffee, exports of Ugandan coffee have previously only been to the commodity market - due mostly to a lack of access to specialty markets, knowledge or pre-financing and a decentralised post-harvest supply chain. All of which we are working to overcome.
Intersection Traders approached the development of a new specialty coffee program in Uganda with an explicit focus on ensuring that everybody engaged in the value chain would receive substantial improvements in income. Working with researchers at universities in Australia, Uganda and the Netherlands, they’ve trialled and implemented a novel contracting approach that allows coffee pickers and growers to be involved in a transparent and higher-paying harvesting program based around picking quality. From the outset they have explicitly sought to work primarily with youth and women in order to provide more opportunities to disadvantaged groups; furthermore in 2019, working with the local growers’ society they developed the community owned Bugimotwa washing station - giving producers access to the infrastructure and scale required to substantially increase volumes, with an aim to establish more stations in future years along with training in agronomy.
After passing our quality assessment stage (which occurs within eight hours of cherries being picked) the coffee is floated and then for the washed lots it is pulped (using well maintained and clean equiptment) and then fermented submerged for thirty six hours, after which the coffee is washed twice then laid on raised drying beds. The naturals are placed on the drying beds in thin layers diretly after floating with layers being built-up as the coffee dries. The coffee is dried slowly with meticulous stirring for two to four weeks until it reaches eleven percent moisture, after which it is stored in GrainPro until dry milling.
Curiously the volcano that this blend is named after is not really a volcano. Looking at it you could be fooled though, and this is how the area, surrounding the mountain that appears to be a volcano, was named "El Volean". This is a special coffee growing region beca use of the high altitude, the mild climate and shade found covering the coffee tree on the farms. Here the vegetation is green and plentiful, a healthy ecosystem where the coffee trees flourish. Farmers here take advantage of the special environment by not just growing amazing coffees but also by planting vegeta ble gardens to sustain themselves and their families, with fresh produce.
Farmers mainly grow traditional varieties here and they process their coffees to highest possible standard. Picked coffee cherries are de-pulped immediately and then left to ferment for between 24-36 hours depending on the altitude and specific climatic conditions of the farm.
Producer: Eshetu Mergiya Teklegiorgi Region: Nansebo, West Arsi Country: Ethiopia Processing: Natural Elevation: 1,750 - 2,200m Varieties: Typica Sourced Through: Cup of Excellence & Upstream Imports COE: 6th Place - 89.21 Points ---
Grown by Eshetu Mergiya Teklegiorgis in West Arsi. Eshetu started farming in 1990 and harvests 80-100 quintals of red cherry annually from 4.5 hectares, which he processes using the dry/natural method on his drying station.
Eshetu's coffee was only sold locally up until 1 year ago when he started selling through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. This partnership allowed him to access high value international markets and expand his operations.
For 20 years, the Cup of Excellence (COE) competition has pioneered integrity and transparency in the coffee industry. The level of scrutiny that COE coffees undergo is unmatched anywhere in the industry. During Eshetu's time with the COE, his coffee scored 89.21 for sixth place.
Not only does the COE promote and advertise farmers such as Eshetu. The COE also has significant economic implications on the farmers involved. In this particular circumstance, Eshetu's coffee sold for around 16 times the international coffee market price.
Fazenda Progresso (Natural) - Brazil
Toasted nuts, butterscotch and milk chocolate.
Country: Brazil State: Bahia Region: Chapada Diamantina Town: Mucugê Altitude: 1,150m above sea level Variety: Catuaí Processing: Natural Owner: Borré Family Awards: Cup of Excellence 2015 #15 Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants ---
Fazenda Progresso is a beautiful farm nestled in the Chapada Diamatina mountain range in the heart of Bahia. The farm is surrounded by the Chapada Diamantina National Park, known for its mountainous cliff formations (Chapada) and 19th century diamond mining (Diamantina).
The history of Fazenda Progresso dates back to 1984, when the Borré family migrated from southern Brazil to the northeast and purchased some land in the municipality of Ibicoara, near the town of Mucugê. In the early years, the family tried growing crops such as soybeans, wheat, and English potatoes. The potatoes turned out to be an incredibly successful crop, stimulating investments and making the family one of the largest producers of potatoes in Brazil!
In 2005, the Borré family sought to diversify the activities on their land, and so began to focus on coffee. As MCM learnt when they first met the family, when they commit to a new project, they seek to do it to the very highest possible standard. Their work with coffee is no exception. The family’s commitment to producing exceptional coffee has been unwavering over the last decade. They have sought advice from some of the most respected professionals in the field, including Silvio Leite, founder of the Cup of Excellence and president of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, with 30 years’ experience in coffee grading, tasting, and quality control.
The Borré family has invested heavily to ensure that they have the very best infrastructure to process coffee, which allows them to control quality every step of the way, from picking right through to export. They have a dedicated quality control lab with a talented cupping team headed up by Ednaldo Nascimento (AKA ‘Gandula’—nicknamed after the boy that replaces the ball during a soccer match)! Gandula and his team assess every lot of coffee produced and ensure that the quality is the very best it can be.
The Borrés are very hands-on in their approach to managing the farm. They are extremely professional in the way they conduct their business, and they take great care to create an excellent work environment for their staff. Throughout the year, there are around 200 permanent staff members on the farm, and this number grows to 650 during the harvest. Many of these harvest workers return every year, and all are provided with daily bus transportation and food.
In total, 700 hectares of the property are dedicated to coffee; this land is divided up into different plots, which are processed separately. Over time, the family has worked out the optimum way to plant coffee trees in order to maximise productivity, with 50 centimetres between each tree and three metres between each row of trees.This year we have purchased coffee from four different plots on the property; each is extremely unique in its profile, and all are exceptional!
Historically all of the coffee at Fazenda Progresso was processed using the pulped natural method, but in 2017 Fabiano started to experiment with naturally processed coffee, and the results have been exceptional. This lot is a natural processed lot from the farm, which was carefully hand-picked by a specially trained team in August. The cherries were selected at the peak of ripeness, and then carefully dried on meticulously clean patios in the sun, and turned regularly to ensure they dried evenly. When the cherry was almost purple, the dried fruit skin and parchment was taken off with a mechanical huller at Progresso’s mill. The coffee was then rested until ready for export.
The Borré family business has always been managed and directed by family members and is now in its third generation of operation. Fabiano Borré looks after everything to do with the coffee side of the business. He is young, focused and very motivated to produce the very best coffee he can. You can read an interview with Fabiano Borré here.
“Working with something so sensitive, so changeable, involving the most varied areas of knowledge and then get to share all this with incredible people… it’s amazing. That’s why I choose coffee!” – Fabiano Borré
The Borré family takes great care to protect and preserve the ecological health of their area. Water is conserved and meteorological stations are positioned throughout the farm to optimise irrigation and ensure the trees get the right amount of water. Cascara pulp from processing is composted (along with potato wastage, which is very high in potassium and great for coffee trees!) and used to fertilise trees throughout the plantation.
In 2015, for the first time, the Borré family entered their coffee into the Cup of Excellence competition. It placed 15th—a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work, resources, and focus that have been put into producing exceptional coffee.
This micro-lot was produced by Juan Carlos Diaz and his father Carlos Julio Diaz on their 12-hectare farm, El Naranjal (meaning “the orange” in Spanish) located near the small community of Laureles, in the municipality of Ibagué, in Colombia’s Tolima state.
El Naranjal is situated in the high hills to the South West of Tolima’s capital city, Ibagué. There are no roads that access the farm, so visitors must climb a steep and slippery path from 1750 meters to 1900 meters above sea level, across rugged terrain. The double story farmhouse sits on the peak of a hill, surrounded by high mountains and coffee trees. The highest points of the farm are over 2000 meters above sea level and can only be reached on foot or by mule.
Carlos Julio purchased El Naranjal in 1994 and today co-manages the farm with Juan Carlos. The farm is 12 hectares large, 8 hectares of which are planted with coffee trees of the Caturra, Colombia and Castillo varieties. The family also farms plantain, beans and oranges (for which the farm is named). Juan Carlos and his wife, Eliana, live at his parent’s farmhouse with their two children, Juan Julio (8yrs) and Renata (2yrs) and are saving to eventually purchase their own property.
Historically the area around the small town of Laureles has been known for cattle, sugarcane and vegetables. Coffee is a relatively new crop for the region, having only been planted in the last 30-40 years. Most coffee farmers purchased land in the area because it was more affordable than traditional coffee farming areas like Planadas and Chaparral, in Tolima’s south. Higher elevation areas were considered less prosperous than lower areas because they typically achieve lower yields. However, this region has since gained acclaim for the high cup quality, sweetness and complexity of the coffees produced here.
Most farms in the region are planted with the Caturra variety, which was the most popular variety during the 1970s and 1980s when the farms were established. Coffee in Laureles is farmed with traditional techniques. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used. The coffee is selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families.
Coffee from Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result, it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible to the international market.
The word ‘Tolima’ comes from the local indigenous language and means a “river of snow or cloud”. The region sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that provide a range of microclimates well-suited to high-quality coffee production. Coffee is the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
The most well-known regions in Tolima for specialty coffee are Planadas and Chaparral in the south. This coffee comes from the areas surrounding Ibagué, which is further north in the state. The city is also known as the “Ciudad del Abanico” or the “city of the folding fan” because when you look at it from the sky the rivers running from the mountains split up the crops of rice and cotton, and it looks like a beautiful handmade folding fan.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffee is sourced by MCM's export partners, Pergamino, who purchase coffee from about 40 independent coffee growers in the region of Ibagué. This is the second year that Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio have sold coffee to Pergamino. During a visit to his farm, Carlos Julio recounted the story of the first time they sold a coffee lot to them when the coffee only achieved a cup score of 80 from the QC team. Following the advice of Pergamino’s co-founder and agronomist, Léonardo Henao Triana, Carlos Julio began fermenting his coffee to remove the sticky fruit of the coffee cherry from the seed, rather than using a mechanical demucilager. The result was a significantly higher cup score, which could be sold with a higher premium. With Pergamino’s assistance, Juan Carlos and Carlo Julio’s goal is to have a consistent cup score of 86 or higher, which will secure the best premiums. They intend to add a second fermentation tank to his ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill) so that he has the space to ferment all of his coffee, even during peak harvest.
During harvest, the Diaz family deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s Ibagué warehouse every 1-2 weeks. Mules are used to transport the coffee down from the highest parts of El Naranjal to Laureles, where it is transferred into small trucks to complete the journey to Ibagué. Only recently a bridge was built over the river that runs through Laureles, Rio Luisa – previously mules had to carry to coffee through the river and many drowned as a result. The new bridge is an incredible point of progress for the small community.
The warehouse in Ibagué is operated and overseen by manager Gonzales, who has a long history of working with Pergamino – in fact, he was Léo’s first boss in coffee! Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment.
The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the team in Ibagué the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, Antioquia, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.
Each season the team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots from independent farmers, looking for coffees that exhibit excellent cup characteristics and showcase the region where they were produced. This year, Carlos Julio’s and Juan Carlos’ coffee was selected to be processed separately as a micro-lot for its distinct character and high cup quality.
Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout Tolima and have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but historically have not had access to specialty buyers. Read more about their work here.
How This Coffee Was Processed
This lot was selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the family. During peak harvest, the family hires about 10 local labourers to help harvest the coffee cherry, who are paid on a daily rate. Juan Carlos and Carlos Julio prefer to work with the same pickers every year as they have taught them how to select only the ripest cherry for processing. To ensure pickers come and work for them they pay a 15%-20% premium on the local daily rate and provides workers with three meals a day.
The coffee was fermented for 24hrs in the cherry, before being processed using the washed method at El Naranjal’s ‘micro-benficio’ (wet mill). The coffee was floated in the mill’s plastic hopper and then pulped using a small electric pulper. The coffee is then fermented for a further 36hrs in bags, before being finished in the tank for another 12hrs. This is a space saving method, which will change once new tanks are added to the mill.
The coffee was carefully dried on raised beds over 20-30 days. Following fermentation, the coffee was washed using clean water from the Rio Luisa. It was then carefully dried (over 20-30 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse is constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
Read more about MCM's Colombian export partner Pergamino here.