Episode 657

Ethiopia Bulessa Washed

Bulessa Washing Station is located in the Sidamo region of Ethiopia, named after the native ethnic population of Sidama people who originate from this Southern-Central area of the country. The Sidama have an estimated population of 3.5 million and as with all other ethnic groups in Ethiopia, they have their own unique culture, tradition, and heritage. Broadly speaking there are 5 primary coffee producing regions in Ethiopia; Sidamo, Limu, Yirgacheffe (a subsection of Sidamo), Harrar, and Djima – each presenting characteristic flavour profiles. In coffee terms, Sidamo is known for the variety that it offers, which often results in a profound complexity of taste. The coffee farmers of Sidama grow their unique varieties on small land parcels and deliver their produce to processing sites. This results in a unique mixture of “mixed heirloom” varietals that give Sidamo coffee its distinct flavour. The coffee you see here is grown on land between 1650-1850 metres above sea level by a group of 112 majority-female smallholder farmers who deliver their crop to the Bulessa Washing Station to be processed.

The washing station is run by Tizita Bizuneh and managed by a team of 15 full-time female workers, with up to 100 additional seasonal workers during harvest season. Tizita started this project with the goal of empowering women working in coffee from production to management of the station, something that has already become a reality at Bulessa. Due to traditional gender roles a lot of coffee-producing countries such as Ethiopia often see higher levels of gender inequality – it's common to see women doing harvesting or quality work but men most often occupy positions of leadership and are in charge of the decision making, selling, and higher business matters. It's unusual for a woman to run a washing station as this is a prominent position in the community, but Tizita is a shining example of what's possible. As the project has evolved, the scheme has developed and started providing educational and agricultural workshops for children and women across the community. Further to the empowerment project, the contributing farmers are also registered and a part of the Kerchanshe support network set up by Israel Degfa. This network helps smallholders and their families with access to healthcare, education and agricultural support.

A lot of you will be familiar with our friend Israel Degfa from some of our other Ethiopian offerings (Ana Sora, Adola, Uraga, to name a few!) - well we purchased this coffee via our friends at Kamba who source coffees from Kerchanshe... Israel is one of Kamba's shareholders and is the owner and CEO of Kerchanshe. The term ‘vertical integration’ is one that is used a lot in specialty coffee, but our sourcing strategy in Ethiopia is exactly that. Israel owns a variety of mills, washing stations and private farms across the coffee-producing regions of Ethiopia. Ultimately the money that these coffees are sold for by Kamba at the end of the chain (what we paid for the green coffee, made possible by what you guys pay us!) goes in part back to Israel and is reinvested in the Ethiopian coffee community. Founded 15 years ago on the principles of bringing fairness and transparency to the coffee value chain and giving back to the community, Kerchanshe has established a track record of fair trading and excellent quality, and now employs over 1250 permanent staff and 10,000 seasonal staff. Directly and indirectly, it impacts the livelihoods of over 1 million coffee growers throughout the Southern and South-Western coffee cultivating regions of Ethiopia. This ethical policy stretches far beyond coffee too: Israel has set up the Buna Qela Charity (https://www.bunaqela.org) and a Smallholder Membership scheme. He believes in helping local farmers through education in husbandry and financial assistance, his passion for fine coffee is matched with consistent contribution to improved infrastructure, technology and processes, and social responsibility programs.

This coffee is a “Fully Washed” lot. At Bulessa, the fresh coffee cherries are delivered to the washing station to be processed immediately after harvesting, this is usually the same day the cherries were picked. The skin of the fruit is removed using machines which scrape away the very outer layer of the cherry, leaving behind the seeds covered in sticky mucilage. These are then immersed in water in large cement fermentation tanks. Unripe or damaged fruit floats to the top and is removed, leaving the good cherries at the bottom. Over the course of about 24 hours the process of fermentation breaks down the sugars in the mucilage and frees it from the seeds within. Once this process is finished the coffee is pushed along channels of flowing water away from the fermentation tank, this agitation frees up any remaining mucilage before finally the coffee enters another tank where it is rinsed with fresh water. The result is wet coffee in parchment, free of all sticky mucilage. From the final washing tank, the wet parchment coffee is taken to dry in the sun, usually on raised African drying beds. This process of drying happens quickly until the dry beans ideally have a water content of around 10%. The Fully Washed process produces incredibly bright and clean tasting coffee.

Ever dunked a chocolate malted milk biscuit in tea?? This coffee kicks off with lots of black tea at the start, with a wedge of lemon in there too. As it cools, the sweetness really comes to the fore and makes this a well balanced quaffing coffee, with malted milk biscuit and milk chocolate slowly filling the cup.

  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Region: Aleta Wondo, Sidamo
  • Mill: Bulessa
  • Contributing smallholders: 112
  • Producer: Tizita Bizuneh
  • Altitude: 1,650-1,850 masl
  • Processing method: Washed
  • Varietals: Heirloom varietals

CUPPING NOTES

Black tea, lemon, malted milk biscuit, milk chocolate

Clean cup: (1–8): 6
Sweetness: (1–8): 7
Acidity: (1–8): 6.5
Mouthfeel: (1–8): 6.5
Flavour: (1–8): 6
Aftertaste: (1–8): 6
Balance: (1–8): 6.5
Overall: (1–8): 6
Correction:(+36): +36

Total (max. 100): 86.5

Roast Information
Medium - through first and give it a fraction more development than you might for most washed Ethiopian coffees, to develop that sweetne

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