Halo Beriti coffee comes from Ethiopia’s southern region and features one of the most well-known varieties of coffee from this area – Yirgacheffe. Harvested from native Ethiopian heirloom varietals and a couple of varietals developed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Center (ideal for the altitude and environmental conditions of the area), Yirgacheffe coffee has a distinctly fruity and floral flavor profile that many coffee drinkers cherish.
Halo Beriti coffee is named after the area where it is grown. The Halo Beriti area is home to Gedeo farmers who have worked the land for generations, growing food crops and coffee, usually next to each other on the same fields. One of the two partners running the Halo Beriti washing station – Abeyot Ageze – hails from this heritage and owns a small coffee farm himself. The other partner – Mebrahtu Aynalem – comes from a background in marketing coffee. The two met and soon created the company Boledu Coffee, which now owns and manages the Halo Beriti washing station.
Since Abeyot has lived and worked all his life around Halo Beriti, he has developed a good rapport with the farmers in the area. Most of these farmers till land passed down from generation to generation. The plots are not large, rarely exceeding two hectares in area. Covering the hills and valleys around Gedeb – a district a short drive away from the town of Yirgacheffe – the farms blend into the surrounding forests as they too are home to shade trees endemic to southern Ethiopia. Most Gedeo farmers tend their fields with the help of their family members.
Boledu Coffee has managed the Halo Beriti washing station since 2017. It is one of the first washing stations the young company managed (although Abeyot oversaw operations before that) and one of which they are rightfully proud. The washing station covers an area of 4.8 hectares and accepts coffee from 1250 smallholders in and around the area. With 220 beds, the Halo Beriti station has almost double the capacity of Boledu’s neighboring Halo Hartume washing station.
In an area full of world-class specialty coffee, Halo Beriti’s output has consistently stood out for its quality, winning awards four times so far from such prestigious names as the Cup of Excellence and Golden Bean Australia. The company manages to do this by investing heavily in farmer training, sharing profits with farmers and encouraging exceptional farmers by processing their lots individually (and passing on profits from these lots to the individual farmers). “We want this to be a community effort where everyone sees and reaps the benefits of coffee”, explains Mebrahtu. “The job of the washing station is simple. The real work happens before the cherry comes to us.”
One of the many things that make Ethiopia unique is its calendar – featuring a short 13th month at the end of the year (this falls in early September). Boledu uses this short month to organize a small celebration where farmers are appreciated for their hard work. Those who consistently bring high-quality cherries to the washing station are given higher payments and a second payment – from the profits of the previous year – is shared out among all the farmers.
Using these different means of building bonds with the farmers of Halo Beriti has borne fruit, with most of them happy to continue working with the washing station year after year. In turn, this helps the washing station consistently produce excellent coffee. Output has grown in the past five years from five containers in total to 18 containers of washed coffee and 18 containers of natural coffee (including fermented lots) last year.
This small corner of Ethiopia is one with very high potential for coffee – the climate is perfect for coffee, and the farmers are experienced. Mebrahtu believes that while farmers are benefiting more now than they did in the past, there is a long way to go. Ethiopian coffee accounts for only three percent of the world’s market share in coffee. “We have to change that”, says Mebrahtu. “There are improvements, but much room for change.”
The next step is organic and RFA certification for the washing station, a process that is already underway with the training of the farmers. Boledu hopes that the increasing recognition Halo Beriti coffee enjoys worldwide will translate to higher sales and better prices, resulting in better incentives for farmers to keep tending their coffee trees as they have done for generations in this part of the world.