Keffa Bonga, Ethiopia
Roast Level: Medium
Process: Washed and dried on raised beds
Roaster's Notes: It is always an exciting moment when we get a coffee in from Ethiopia and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. Beautifully fragrant with jasmine and bergamot tones with a sticky plum sweetness.
Producer: Various smallholder farmers
Altitude: 1,814 metres
This exceptional fully washed coffee was grown by smallholder farmers living around the Kebele (town) of Bonga in Keffa Zone, SNNPR Region. The coffee is collected from farmers by Home Land Organic Coffee Agro Industry PLC, who processes the coffee, before being sold to Primrose S.P PLC via the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX). In this case, our partner in the region Primrose, are responsible for dry milling and exporting the final product. The Zone of Keffa is deeply tied to the history of coffee.
Named after the former ‘Kingdom of Kaffa’ (located in the same region), Keffa is thought to be the original birthplace of all Arabica coffee produced around the world today. This is highlighted in the etymology of the word, as ‘Kaffa’ is thought to be from the Arabic word ‘qahwah’, meaning "a drink from berries". The English word "coffee", is also believed to be derived from the same root.
At first glance, Keffa’s hills look thickly forested - but in fact, it is a heavily populated region and the hills are dotted with many dwellings and villages’. This is in part due to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s 2004 voluntary resettlement programme. The project saw around 7800 families moved from overpopulated areas to less populated Woreda’s, such as Gimbo, Keffa. Around 85 per cent of Ethiopians still live rurally and make a living from agriculture; each family usually lives in a modest home (often a single round mud hut) and farms their own plot of land, where they grow both cash crops and food for their own consumption.
In Keffa, coffee is one of the main cash crops, often known as ‘garden coffee’ – covering from half a hectare to 1.5 hectares (the latter is considered big). This is usually planted alongside a second cash crop – often a large-leafed tree used in making roofs for (and also shade provider for the coffee) known as 'false banana' (Enset). This looks like a banana tree but isn't - instead its thick stem is used to produce both a nutritious flour and a fermented paste that are staple ingredients (particularly across southern Ethiopia).
Other subsistence crops planted include; sweet potato, papaya and avocado. Income from coffee is important but minimal for most farmers due to the small size of their farms. As such, inputs are minimal – most coffee grown in the region is 100% organic, though not certified, as farmers simply don’t have the money to apply chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Primrose ensures that there are agricultural officers who work closely with each farmer to ensure the fertility of the farmland. In fact, soon the wet mill and surrounding farmers will also be RFA and UTZ certified.