|Altitude||1800 - 2100 masl|
Qore, is a privately owned washing station in Kochere, named after the kebele where it is located. They collect cherries from various smallholders in the area which they process as washed, naturals or honeys. The cherries can come from kilometers away in well known areas such as Biloya. Besides producing stand-out coffees they are certified UTZ and Rainforest Alliance. The farmers delivering cherries are registered and entitled to second payments and premiums, plus they have access to training programs on composting, pruning and mulching and other topics focused on increasing quality and yield. The washing station drilled for ground water which is used in the coffee production and by households in the local community.
The altitude is high and the climate chilly. Qore manage traditional wet fermentation, grading in channels by water and drying on raised beds, resulting in a unique character in their coffee.
This coffee is from a privately owned communal wet mill in Kochere (in the Gedeo zone that also includes Yirgacheffe), called “Qore”, named after the kebele where it is located. The washing station is owned by Israel Degfa. Qore means "sharp", as in sharp as a knife or sharp spikes on plants.
Many of Israel's washing stations are great simply due to their location and altitude, and he is building on this potential quality by investing in better systems and protocols. In addition to high quality washed coffees, we also buy improved naturals, honey coffees, and shade dried coffees from these washing stations.
Their focus is mainly on specialty, but all washing stations in Ethiopia produce a range of coffees. Every day of production Israel’s team differentiates what goes into the improved and better qualities (Grade 1) from the normal preparation for Grade 2 and Grade 3. He has invested in flotations systems for cherries and systematically separates some of the coffees for better performance on-site. They generally do lot separation based on 150 bags of parchment, equal to 100 bags of greens, but they also do smaller lot sizes, especially for honey, shade-dried or other improved preparations.
They aim at producing five containers each of higher grades washed and naturals, and two containers of honeys. They have a separate and designated cherry collection point for higher quality lots, and separate drying space for these and the experimental lots. They also have a small dry mill for naturals and new warehouses for parchment. They use their premiums to invest in the community through projects providing ground water and electricity for the community, and they support the local church.
In addition to paying premiums for quality, Israel has registered some washing stations as Rainforest Alliance and Organic. That means means some producers earn two premiums, one for the certification and another for quality. They also run agronomy training programs and seek to improve the varieties grown by providing new seedlings to farmers in the process of replanting old trees.
The cherries are bought by surrounding farmers who either deliver cherries directly to the washing station, or to a Qore collection centre in the more remote areas. Farmers are immediately paid a small premium for higher quality cherries/pickings, and most farmers here are registered for a second payment after the coffee is sold with a quality premium. They produce greater volumes of washed coffees the first part of the harvest, and naturals in the later part of the harvest.
We have been working with Israel Degfa for several years, a young business man with a sure and steady focus. When the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) operated in a way that obscured the origins of coffee, Israel was more focused on producing high volumes. However he predicted the eventual opening up of the ECX and several years ago shifted his focus to quality. He hired a separate team dedicated to specialty, and built a dry mill specifically to process specialty and micro-lots. Finally, in 2017, the coffee market in Ethiopia was opened to allow businessmen like Israel to sell directly to importers like Nordic Approach, and Israel was ready with high quality and fully traceable coffees.
Israel runs more than 30 washing stations in Ethiopia, and after several years of working together we have narrowed our focus to a handful of specific regions and washing stations where we know we can expect quality, and Israel gives us priority. We pre-contract and book coffees at the start of the harvest to both demonstrate our commitment, and to increase our access to the best coffees. With up-front investment, the producers are able to budget and invest more in quality control and improved processing and selection.
Many of Israel's washing stations are great simply due to their location and altitude, and he is building on this potential quality by investing in better systems and protocols. To maintain quality standards Israel has invested in a modern warehouse and dry mill in Addis. There he has separate areas for washed and naturals, as well as for specialty and for the normal commodity. He also purchased high-tech colour sorters, and built a quality control lab, all to produce and maintain high quality lots.
Every day of production Israel’s team differentiates what goes into the improved and better qualities (Grade 1) from the normal preparation for Grade 2 and Grade 3. Flotation systems separate some of the coffees on-site for better performance. These coffees are assigned a quality team to carefully tend to their processing. They generally do lot separation based on 150 bags of parchment, equal to 100 bags of greens, but they also do smaller lot sizes, especially for honey, shade-dried or other improved preparations. The coffees are separated according to the days and areas of harvest as well as by preparation.
We buy improved naturals, honeys, and shade-dried coffees from select washing stations.
About thousand smallholder farmers deliver small quantities of cherries on a daily basis to the communal washing station, or to collection centers in the nearby villages. The average farm size for producers delivering to the Uraga washing station is 2 - 3 hectares, which is larger than the average farm in Ethiopia. These semi-forest farms have red clay soil and coffee grows amongst Kerero, Tikur Enchet, Besena and Berbera trees. Most coffees are organic by default. Organic compost is common, pruning less common. A farmer can typically have fewer than 1500 trees per hectare, and one tree typically produces a quantity of cherries equal to less than 100 - 200 grams of green coffee.
Farmers deliver a mix of local improved varieties like Certo and local Wolisho, plus native forest varieties that have been transferred to family smallholder plots. The varieties are referred to collectively as Ethiopian Heirloom, which is a myriad of local native Typica hybrids, plus new and improved varieties based on the old strains.
Harvest and cherry selection
Coffee cherries are harvested by family members, then hand-sorted to remove unripes and overripe cherries before they are delivered to the washing station for processing. Israel generally pays a higher price for good quality cherries, normally 2-4 Birr/kg on top of the general cherry prices.
Pulping and pre-grading
The cherries are pulped by a traditional Agaarde Discpulper. Skin and fruit pulp are removed before the machine grades the parchment in water as 1st or 2nd quality, determined by density.
The parchment is fermented in water for 36-72 hours. Fermentation is slower at higher altitudes as temperatures are generally lower.
Washing and grading in channels
Coffees are washed in channels, and graded in water by density. The lower density (lower quality) will float and are removed, leaving only the denser and therefore higher quality beans which are separated as higher grade lots.
Soaked under clean water
Parchment is then soaked in tanks in clean water for 6-12 hours before it is moved to the drying tables.
Drying and handsorting
Parchment is dried on raised beds in the sun for 12 - 15 days. The time depends on the thickness of the layers and temperatures. For the premium grades they will continuously sort the parchment at the drying tables. Coffees are piled up and covered in shade nets or plastic during the hottest hours of the day and overnight.