Bright experiences from East Africa
Bright experiences from East Africa
This month we are presenting two new crop coffees from East Africa
This year is our first dealing more directly with mill owners in Ethiopia
Due to the unstable political situation in Ethiopia, some of our shipments have been delayed
Oboleyan comes from the Tabu Burka coffee mill in Guji
Gatina comes from the the Mugaga Farmer’s Cooperative Society in Nyeri
Mugaga also own well-known mills such as Kagumoini and Kieni
It is always exciting to receive fresh crop African coffees after such a long wait since the previous season. This year, having to work around the maze of Ethiopian coffee regulations and political unrest has rendered this wait even longer. However, we are more than happy with the result, Oboleyan is a new expression of Ethiopian terroir for us, with a heavier syrupy body and unusual berry-like fruit notes.
Stay Bright and Curious - John Gibson
It’s been an interesting month
Welcome to your September subscription, where we’re excited to present two fresh African coffees. It’s been an interesting month here at La Cabra, debriefing and cupping samples from an extensive sourcing venture in Brazil, and preparing to open our roastery here in Copenhagen to the public. We have plans drawn, equipment ordered, and hope to run a small coffee service every Friday starting from the 4th of October. We’re also beginning to plan for the arrival of this year’s crop from one of our most beloved origins - Costa Rica. Look out for Altos, Herbazu, and other favourites over the next few weeks and months.
We feel that African coffees are some of the most exciting to be found in the world. The combination of high altitude and fertile soils leads to wild and varied cup characteristics, normally with obvious fruit notes and pronounced acidity. Both Ethiopia and Kenya present diverse flavour profiles and their own challenges in terms of coffee buying. This year is our first working more directly in Ethiopia, a development made possible by changes to the previously laborious regulations of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). Traceability was often removed and direct relationships, especially for companies of our size, were almost impossible. In 2017 the ECX announced wholesale changes to the system. Coffees that are traded through the ECX now have electronic traceability information attached, normally down to the precise mill the coffee was processed at, along with cup score, moisture content and water activity readings. Excitingly for us though, the minimum size of lot that can be purchased through the exchange has been lowered from 100 bags to a single bag, and buyers are now allowed to make direct agreements with privately owned washing stations outside the ECX auction system. This allows small to medium sized roasters like us to enter the game, exporting small traceable lots, or even experimental processes, through direct relationships with trusted partners. The coffee regulations have begun to ease, but the political discontent in Ethiopia rumbles on. Ethnic tensions between Ethiopia’s various tribal groups have displaced more than 2.4 million people according to the United Nations, and in June this year, a militia group attempted to seize control of the Amhara region, north of the capital Addis Ababa. This unrest has delayed many shipments making their way from Addis to the main coffee port in neighbouring Djibouti, including some of our direct trade shipments.
Relationships in coffee
When we speak about creating trusting relationships, this can refer to any stage of the chain. In the case of Gatina, we have placed trust in our import partners at Nordic Approach. In order for the delivered coffee to match the sample we were provided with, they have to do everything right from an export and logistics point of view. Not the most exciting part of coffee, but one of the most important. For Oboleyan, we have placed our trust in mill manager Tadesse Edema. Cooperatives often employ a mill manager, a very important role, as they are ultimately responsible for the quality of the mill’s output. Their stewardship of coffee fermentation is a huge factor, but the quality of raw cherries arriving at the mill is also important to control. Careful sorting can help, but often managers will reject damaged or unripe cherries before they even enter the mill.
Oboleyan - Ethiopia
(250g / 8.8oz)
The Tabu Burka washing station is located in Eastern Guji, at 1900 masl. It was established in 2006 by Tadesse Edema, who still runs the station today. Tadesse is from a well known coffee family in the area, which is one of the reasons he feels he has been successful. This means that the farmers in the area respect him as a producer himself, and trust him to have their best interests at heart during processing and finally selling the coffees. Tadesse was also one of the first to open a station in the small community, so being early to the game has meant he has had longer to build a relationship with the smallholder farmers in the area. At Tabu Burka, the coffees are processed in a rather typical fashion for Ethiopia, carefully selected first through floating channels, depulped and fermented for approximately 40 hours, before a second sorting and washing. The coffee is then transferred to drying beds and dried to a moisture content of 11.5% which takes between 8 and 12 days depending on weather conditions. The coffee is then sent to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to be dry milled, which involves a further sorting, and milling to remove the hard outer ‘parchment’ layer from the seed. When asked about what makes his coffee special, Tadesse mentions his careful practices in the mill, and the young tree stock in the area, but again mentions the relationship he has with the farmers around the station, making sure they understand the push for quality and the rewards they can have in return for this. Oboleyan is a new expression of Ethiopian terroir for us, with a heavier syrupy body and unusual berry-like fruit notes.
Gatina AB - Kenya
(250g / 8.8oz)
Your second coffee this month is an AB lot from the Gatina factory in Nyeri. Gatina is owned by the Mugaga Farmer’s Cooperative Society, one of their 5 mills in the Nyeri region, also including Kiamabara, Gathugu, Kagumoini and Kieni. Mugaga are renowned for their high quality output and careful stewardship of coffee production, you will see their mill names on high-end roasters’ offer lists the world over. This level of quality also pays, the cooperative now counts almost 5000 members and growing, with new farmers seeking out Mugaga for the high prices received and level of agricultural support provided. Gatina is a local Kikuyu word meaning ‘bottom’; Gatina lies at the lowest altitude of any of Mugaga’s mills, located at around 1600 masl in eastern Nyeri, close to the border with Kirinyaga. This lot is of the AB screen size, a screen size of 15 or 16, or about 6.6 mm. The screen size doesn’t necessarily have any effect on quality, but the larger AA lots often carry a price premium. The lot consists of the classic Kenyan varietals SL28 and SL34, strains of Bourbon selected by Scott Laboratories due to their high quality potential and drought resistance, as well as being well suited to Kenyan growing conditions. This is a familiar Kenyan flavour profile to us; crisp blackberry acidity balanced by a heavy molasses sweetness.
Two delicious experiences from East Africa
This month’s coffees showcase two ways of working in difficult origins like Kenya and Ethiopia. Either using an importer like Nordic Approach, or working more directly at origin, trust is important in order to find delicious coffees. The changing ECX regulations have opened up the possibility of more direct relationships and experimentation in Ethiopia, and we are looking forward to further results of our work later in the year. On the other side, the continuing political situation is rather distressing, and we hope for greater stability in the area soon. We hope you enjoy both Gatina and Oboleyan this month, two delicious experiences from East Africa, two very different modes of sourcing.
Stay bright and curious - John Gibson
Two Unique Coffees Every Month
La Cabra is a modern coffee roastery based out of Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark. Every month we ship out two unique coffee experiences and provide insight into how these coffees were grown and processed by talented producers.Subscribe Learn More coffee line-up