Ethiopia – Refisa

Ethiopia has been somewhat of an enigma in specialty coffee. From what we know, Ethiopia is the motherland of coffea arabica, aka the good stuff we roast and drink in specialty coffee. From Ethiopia it spread to Yemen and then everywhere else in the world, so all the rest of the world’s specialty coffee derives from what can still be found growing wild in Ethiopia today. But despite Ethiopia being the starting point of all coffee, relatively little development took place in the Ethiopian coffee sector until the last half of a decade. Old farms are beginning to see modernization with new agricultural techniques and machinery which makes post-harvest processing more consistent from year to year. Smaller producing regions are finally gaining recognition for their specific flavor qualities which buyers around the world have long searched for just to be met with ambiguity and a lack of tractability. Finally, information is being spread about what varieties are actually growing in each area, rather than just being labeled “heirloom.”

This month’s primary coffee comes to us from a really exciting and new region in Ethiopia: Nensebo, West Arsi. This area was once just labeled and sold under the “Sidamo” label, which covered a lot of major growing areas in Ethiopia (including the now coveted “Guji” coffees). Luckily, in the last few years we’ve seen these general regional-names give way to actual community identification. Refisa is one community which is home to several hundred smallholder coffee producers in Nensebo, West Arsi. Negusse Debela and his now legendary company SNAP Coffees have established processing centers in communities across West Arsi including Refisa.

Local smallholder producers bring their raw coffee cherries to the processing center where they are paid for the amount of ripe cherries they bring. From here the coffee is processed until they reach the “raw” state where they are then exported and sold to buyers internationally. Thanks to the dedicated work of Neguesse Debela and the team at SNAP, producers of the Refisa community are finally beginning to see the value of their coffee. We expect to see much more from the Refisa community in the future.

Processing – Sundried- Natural
Varieties – JARC Selections and Local Landraces (74110 + Local Selections)
Harvest – December – January
Farmers – Smallholder Producers from Refisa Community – Negusse Debela (SNAP)
Altitude – 1800-1970 MASL
Region – Refisa Community, Nensebo, West Arsi

 

Honduras – Los Pinos

Honduras is a truly unique coffee producing nation. It has all of the factors needed to produce high quality specialty coffee such as elevations above 1000 meters, healthy and fertile soils, and ideal microclimates. Despite this, for decades Honduras fell behind other Latin American countries when it came to producing high quality coffee. Throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s Honduras carried a reputation for producing mainly commercial grade coffees with few exceptions. Because of this most coffee in Honduras was purchased at commodity (aka low) prices. The best lots from Honduras had to be smuggled illegally across the boarder to Guatemala in order to receive higher prices.

Luckily, Honduras has seen genuine and sustained growth in their specialty coffee sector. Today, you can find a variety of great coffees coming from Honduras representing great quality and even new or experimental processing techniques. Since the vast majority of specialty coffee produced in Honduras derives from smallholder producers who generally own less than 5 acres of land,  there’s interesting opportunities for experimentation. But this fact also raises challenges. Most smallholder producers struggle to sell their coffee to buyers who will pay them fair prices for their hard and intentional labor. Isolated in mountainous regions with few if any roads, producers end up selling their coffee to “coyotes” who travel from village to village paying low prices to vulnerable producers. There are many ways to fight this terrible system, and one is to create avenues for producers to sell their coffees to the international specialty market.

De La Finca is a coffee exporting and importing company started by fifth generation coffee producer Nelson Amador, who came to the US to learn English and work. Upon coming to the US, Nelson learned that the often complicated and convoluted process of exporting and importing coffee led to traceability and ultimately led to coffee producers being paid less. Nelson wanted to create a company that would change this for smallholder producers in Honduras. In his own words: “Instead of seeing coffee pass through as many as 6-8 hands between farmers and consumers (as is usual in the coffee industry), I make genuine, direct connections between coffee roasters, consumers, and coffee producers, like my family.”

Today, De La Finca purchases coffee from members of Nelson’s family in Honduras, as well as other smallholder producers and families in the Marcala and Comoyagua regions of Honduras. This specific lot (Los Pinos) was sourced from 11 families to build a delicious coffee that best represented the opportunity for high quality in the region.

In the cup, we taste mellow and deep tones of raisins and dates with hazelnuts and a mildly herbal finish. 

Processing – Fully Washed
Varieties – Bourbon, Pacas, IH90
Harvest – October-April
Farmers – 11 Smallholder Families in Marcala
Altitude – 1450-1650 MASL
Region – Marcala, La Paz

 

Ethiopia – Worka Chelbessa – Barako Deyaso

Ethiopia is easily the most dynamic coffee producing nation in the world. Being the genetic-homeland of coffea arabica gives Ethiopia unparalleled access to genetic diversity that simply isn’t found anywhere else. It’s very common to see new genetic hybrid varieties, which were distributed to farmers by the Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC) in 1974, growing right alongside local landraces that are difficult to identify, and they usually are only identifiable by names given by local farmers who’ve grown these plants for several generations. Pair this with the endless microclimates found in each distinct area of Ethiopia and what you have is absolutely outstanding coffees with a very mysterious heritage.

For decades coffee in Ethiopia was referred to by general regions: Yirgacheffe, Harrar, Sidamo, and Limu. While these are legit regions, they’re pretty massive areas with a plethora of diversity being held within. Coffee from Sidamo could range from exceptionally deep berry flavors to sundried stone fruits and everything in between. In the last decade the Ethiopian coffee sector has seen some massive changes which has allowed private buyers from around the world to directly purchase from farmers and coffee exporting companies instead of having to purchase through the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) which frequently obscured coffees unique identities in favor of general labels like Yirgacheffe, Harrar, and so on…

The result has been an explosion of potential and possibility for Ethiopian coffee that was largely impossible only a few short years ago. We’re seeing individual villages gaining recognition for their distinct flavor profile, and general labels like Yirgacheffe are beginning to lose their as the primary method to identify where a coffee has come from. 2020 seems to be the year for amazing identification in Ethiopian coffee, and we’d like to share one particularly amazing selection.

Gedeb is a district in the Gedeo Zone, which is one of the southern-most growing areas in all of Ethiopia. Gedeb has some of the highest elevations in the entire country, which has resulted in exceptionally bright and lively coffees that remind us of the ripest citrus and stone fruits. This particular selection comes from the Danche Village, which is a small sub-village outside of the larger Worka Chelbessa community.

Barako Deyaso is a single producer who’s farm is located near the Danche community. This year SNAP coffees separated Barako’s coffee to highlight just his lot only, and the result is blissful. We’re excited to share this highly unusual (lot separation of this sort is not “normal” in Ethiopia at all) and really outstanding single-producer lot. 

In the cup, we taste delicious tones of apricot and peach with bright key limes with a finish reminiscent of lemongrass and jasmine. 

Processing – Fully Washed
Varieties – JARC Selections – Wolisho and Kurume (Typica and Bourbon)
Harvest – December – January
Farmer – Neguesse Debela of SNAP and Barako Deyaso
Altitude – 2100 MASL
Region – Danche Village, Gedeb Woreda (District), Gedeo Zone

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As always, thank you for choosing Utopian! We hope you enjoy learning more about the coffees you drink and share. If you have questions, comments, or feedback, feel free to leave them below or email to .