Buy Hambela Lot 321 online (beta)
Around 6,500 farmers deliver cherry to Dimtu washing station in Hambela, in the Guji region of Ethiopia.
The average farm size is 1.5 hectares, with red clay soil and with coffee planted alongside Besana and Berbera trees grown to provide shade.
Hambela is a privately owned washing station, managed by the husband and wife team of Gizaw Alemayu and Frehiwot Mekonnen, with help from other family members.
They own three washing stations as well as their own farm, and they’ve taken their skills to now manage two more washing stations for their friends. All of these washing stations are located in the highlands of Yirgacheffe and Guji: two of our favourite regions in Ethiopia.
They are progressive when it comes to quality at their own washing stations, and they also enter in contracts with coffee farmers and local processors to produce coffees to achieve the levels of quality they seek (and which are rewarded by higher prices by roasters like us).
They’ve also established themselves as exporters, which means they can handle their coffee from farm to port, giving them more control and a greater share of the money.
They are separating the better quality beans (Grade 1) from the lesser quality (Grades 2 and 3) and investing in staff and sorting.
Gizaw is the key figure at the washing station through the whole season, while Frehiwot focuses mainly on sales, business and the export side of the business. The whole family believe strongly in investing in local communities, using the premiums earned by their quality focus to increase the income everyone earns on the crop.
From farm to export
G & F is the name of both their coffee producing company and the export company of Gizaw and Frehiwot. They started work well ahead of the market in the hope of political shifts in Ethiopia to allow producers to handle export, and therefore sell directly to importers.
In 2017 Ethiopia finally relaxed government restrictions on this to allow farms to bypass the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX), and it’s thanks to this change that we’re able to showcase their coffee, and also provide a greater degree of traceability from farm to you.
G & F now manage their own supply chain to provide this traceability. Coffees are separated when they arrive at the washing stations according to the days and areas of harvest, by the farm, or by producer groups, as well as by preparation.
Premium quality coffees for direct sale sit in their warehouse at the stations before being quality checked and graded at a local ECX facility, then moving on to Addis Ababa.
Some hundreds smallholder farmers deliver their daily crop of coffee cherries to the communal washing station.
On average farmers in this area have a farm of less than 1 hectare, mostly farmed organically. These farms typically have less than 1,500 trees per hectare, with each tree producing enough cherries to produce around 100–200 grams of green coffee.
Jebena Buna: Ethiopian coffee ceremony
It’s not surprising that a country like Ethiopia also has long and rich traditions around drinking coffee, and their coffee ceremony is the perfect example. Here’s a photo of coffee being prepared during Reuben’s visit:
Much like here, coffee has a strong element of social bonding to it: the ceremony is about getting people together to talk.
Unlike here, they start with green beans and roast them right before brewing (we recommend giving our beans at least three days between roasting and brewing). They’re typically roasted in a frying pan over a flame, and often carried around afterwards to help cool the beans and also share the aromas with others nearby.
After grinding the beans in a mortar and pestle, they’re brewed in an unusual vessel: a long-necked ceramic kettle called a jebena. When the coffee boils up through the top of the container, it’s poured in and out of another container to cool it, then back into the jebena for serving.
Small serving cups without handles are arranged on a tray, and the coffee is served in a continuous pour from cup to cup until they’ll all full. Traditionally the youngest child of the family will serve the coffees, with the eldest person in the room served first.
This is repeated with the same coffee grounds three times by adding fresh water: the first is called Arbol in Amharic, followed by the second,Tona, and finally the Bereka, which is also considered to be a blessing.
The way coffee is roasted and served in Ethiopia means this coffee is typically dark and bitter compared to the lighter roast that you’re drinking, so it’s also usually sweetened with sugar.
Vice Munchies capture the experience of the coffee ceremony in Addis Ababa, or Saveur magazine filmed the Ethiopian coffee ceremony if you’d like to see this in action:
And now, some jazz
One other indelible side to Ethiopia is their vibrant live jazz scene: it’s one of Reuben’s highlights from the visit last year.
This 45-minute mix comes from MogaDisco, a group of four collectors of African music, and gives you a taste of the range of music coming out of Ethiopia.
About the varietals in Hambela Lot 321
The Ethiopian Heirloom name is used to describe indigenous heirloom varieties resulting from cross-breeding between species and varietals rather than stemming from one particular variety.
Seen as the birthplace of domesticated coffee, there not many more exciting times at the Sample Roastery as when our fresh Ethiopian lots arrive. There’s a lot to love about Ethiopian coffee