Ethiopia is truly the home of coffee. Some estimates place the number of coffee varieties in Ethiopia between 6000 to 10,000, and the Gedeo Zone in southern Ethiopia is home to many of these. On top of genetic differences in the coffee itself, differences in farming practices, soil, shade trees, and water can lend different nuances to the flavor of the coffee.
In the recent past, it was very difficult to source Ethiopian coffee from a particular region or grower. Traceability was a big problem and coffee lots of the same grade would often be lumped together as one, taking Ethiopia’s myriad unique flavors and blending them in no particular order.
But recent changes to export laws in Ethiopia have made it easier to source coffee from a particular washing station or mill – or even an individual farmer – helping preserve each region’s unique taste. This newfound freedom for smaller washing stations and farmers to export their coffee directly is an exciting development for Ato Mijane Worassa and his son Daniel (who manages the family’s different washing stations and mills). The Mijane family has run washing stations in the Gedeb region of the Gedeo zone for decades, and one of their goals is to export traceable coffee from each kebele (the smallest administrative division in Ethiopia) in Gedeb separately.
We are working on establishing new washing stations, but our main goal is to get Gedeb coffee out to the world in clusters, based on the kebele it is grown in.
It is for this reason that they opened their second washing station at Halo Hartume. Farmers from the area no longer need to transport their cherries to the Mijane’s Worka Sakaro station, which is a bit of a journey from Halo Hartume. Because of this, the coffee from Halo Hartume is not mixed in with other coffees from the region and stays pure and traceable. In addition, smallholders in the area can get their coffee to the washing station soon after picking, ensuring that the coffee does not develop overly fruity flavors.
The washing station at Halo Hartume is a few kilometers from Gedeb town in the Gedeo zone. However, it is only accessible by a dry weather road and if it’s raining, you either have to walk the few kilometers to the station or use a motorbike to get there. The station itself is situated in a valley surrounded by the hills of Halo Hartume, where the coffee is grown. Like most of the area around Gedeb, the hills vary in altitude from 2000 to 2200 meters above sea level.
The lush and green forested Halo Hartume hills here are relatively new to coffee. The coffee trees are young, bearing cherries that are large and full of flavor. The washing station receives cherries from 396 smallholders in the area between mid-October to January. The Halo Hartume washing station workers de-pulp, wash and then dry on 230 African drying beds before they store the coffees in one of the two on-site warehouses.
In addition, the Mijane’s work closely with the community of coffee farmers in the area and help them get training on the importance of local shade trees, organic compost, and proper selective handpicking – helping ensure that the flavors of Halo Hartume remain untouched and topnotch.
Ato Mijane Worassa pays painstaking detail to attention and is often found working along with his hired help during harvest season at the Worka Sakaro washing station. His sons grew up being trained by him and learning his work ethic, and now help him run the business by overseeing the family’s different washing stations and mills. One of Ato Mijane’s sons is fully responsible for the Halo Hartume washing station.