Ethiopia Bensa Bombe Natural
BOMBE WASHING STATION by the talented Emily McIntyre:
This washing station is a culmination of several years of preparation for Sidama coffee man Assefa Dukamo and his family. Bombe Washing Station, named for the Bombe Mountains, which stand to the south of several of the washing stations where we've worked the past few years, specifically Shantawene and Qonqona Washing Stations. On the north side of this washing station lies the Shantawene, south lies Bombe. This producing season, producers from both cherries to this site, as a central processing point for Organic Certified coffees. While Shantawene maintains a washing station of its own, this site location took lots from both communities and separated each lot in specific fermentation tanks and drying locations. This action provides many more opportunities to the producers, as well as centralizes special processing techniques, such as shaded fermentation tanks, and washing channels as well as shaded drying tables.
Not only is mill well-organized and run by a team including newest member Atkilt Dejene, a female agronomist who has also worked with the award-winning Gesha Village project, but the community of producers achieved several levels of certification, including NOP and JAS Organic as well as C.A.F.E. Practices. The allows the local coffee cherries, which are already grown with organic practices, to reach new markets around the world.
Volume capacity at Bombe Washing Station is 2.5 million kgs of cherries, but in 2018 its output was much less as it focused on micro-lots. As is our custom, we have been very involved in the processing of our lots, visiting multiple times during the harvest and processing season to check in and pull samples in person and also bringing buyers from the United States and Europe to cup on site. For the 2017/2018 production cycle, we implemented drying tables with shade mesh canopy for slower and more gentle drying. These lots are very limited and make up the entirety of naturals we are importing from this site. We find the cup characteristics of these shade dried naturals enhance fruit juice character and sweetness.
Bombe is 3.7 hectares in total, with a four-disk Agard pulper in cherry red anchoring the mechanic's shack into the winding cement washing channels and fermentation tanks. The water used to process coffees at Bombe comes from the nearby Bonara the coffee is dried in typical style, on raised bamboo tables with mesh beds to increase air flow. Access to dried coffee in the storehouse is limited to ensure no contamination, and coffee is transported through Hawassa to Addis for final export processing.
We implement several levels of quality protocols, which include multiple samplings from lots, as they are on the drying tables and kept in separate batches in the mill storehouse, and as the lots arrive in Addis. This allows us the opportunity to anticipate what to expect from each coffee even from a very early stage in the process, and it allows us to verify quality at each control point.
Upon arrival at the export facility, we draw samples from the entire lot and evaluate them next to earlier drawn samples. During export processing, we process each lot with custom preparation. We calibrate the flow of coffee through screen sorting, in order to minimize the excessive flow of multiple screen sizes, which often causes unnecessarily mixed screens. We often isolate individual screen sizes, based on evaluations of each screen size during the sampling process. This allows us to sharpen the focus of the coffee, as each screen size or screen grouping represent different characteristics of the coffee. In general, smaller screen sizes tend to be more floral and herbal, while larger screen sizes tend to be more fruit heavy and juicy. This screen size isolation has lent to distinguishing our coffee preparation from others working in Ethiopia. It is very difficult to implement this type of sorting well. Doing things with excellence is also costly, and we ensure every team member is paid a premium when we are processing our lots. This premium amounts to tripling the daily wages of each laborer. With coffees this beautiful, why would we not want to promote this level of care?
SIDAMA ZONE by Emily McIntyre (Catalyst Coffee Consulting):
One of the most-visited cities in Ethiopia is Awassa (or Hawassa), the capital of the SSNPR Region and a well-kept town full of resorts, restaurants, and lakeside celebrations. There are even a few stoplights! On the shores of Lake Awassa (one of the Great Rift Valley lakes), the town has blossomed lately and is one of our personal favorites in the world.
Sidama is much larger than Awassa, however, no matter how fun it is to watch hippos surface among the rushes. Driving a full day over increasingly rough roads to the town of Daye, through the well-known towns of Yirgalem and Aleta Wondo, you find yourself in a rugged and lovely countryside surrounded and sometimes chased by the smiling faces of the Sidama people.
Historically, they had many unique cultural attributes including a voluntary farm-sharing program and a butter-sharing program (the only legal item women could own was butter, so they would trade, share, and compound butter to aid women in need). Subjugation by the Abyssinian rule of Menelik II in 1898 was succeeded by the Communist regime in the early 1980's, and then eventually overthrown for the current leadership. Now, they continue to advocate for their rights as a unique culture to be observed (Note: calling the people group "Sidamo" is a derogatory practice begun by the invading troops of Menelik, hence our use of the term "Sidama")
As in many other areas of Ethiopia, subsistence farming is a way of life for the Sidama people, and in fact, their beautiful farms are notable for having more division between them (handmade fences of bamboo screens and other materials) and more evidence of year-round cultivation. Enset, or false banana (called "Weese" in Sidama) is the main food crop and is used in many applications, from water storage in case of drought, to feeding animals, to serving as mats to support food preparation. Other products grown in Sidama include wheat, oats, sugar cane, potatoes, and other vegetables. Every household plants food crops with trees, to the benefit of both--that is, until eucalyptus began to be planted in the area and spread its poisonous influence. The short-term economic potential of the eucalyptus threatens the long-term forestation and ecology of the area.
Livestock is also a significant mover in the economy, though that began to shift with a massive population explosion limiting pasture land and the "tse-tse" fly epidemic of the early 20th century. Goats and oxen are still seen everywhere, dotting the rolling hills and lazily being herded across the roads which, though paved in places, still have a haphazard air as if nobody really knows why they exist.
The Sidama people comprise roughly 20% of the overall population of Ethiopia and thus have many administrative needs which continue to be addressed. Coffee as a primary economic driver remains life-and-death important to the Sidama people, and to those of us who love the area and wish to continue supporting it, and them.
NATURAL PROCESSED COFFEES:
In the case of natural processed coffee, the coffee cherries are brought in the mill and most often take to raised drying beds immediately. The cherries are allowed to absorb sunlight directly, to dry out the mucilage. During the process, underripe, overripe, and damaged cherries are removed by the mill workers.
The cherries are raked regularly to discourage fermentation and mold formation. Just like in washed coffees, the drying cherries are covered during rainfall and nighttime. The cherries are removed from the drying beds once the moisture content reaches 12% and then transferred to a hulling station to remove the dried mucilage.
Wanna know more about how we brew? Then visit our brew methods page cause "this is how we brew it" (think Montell Jordan when reading that last part).
FILTER - Hario V60
20g Coffee : 330g Water 205°F
~2:30 Drain Time
Start Timer: 50g Bloom, 30s
@30s 100g pour to 150g
@1:00 100g pour to 250g
@1:30 80g pour to 330g
~2:30 Drain Time
Replacing our latest natural Ethiopian coffee, the Bensa Bombe, is another great coffee from Bensa! This is definitely a fruit Bombe (sorry, not sorry)! Bright red berries show up and linger throughout the entire cup, transitioning between raspberry and strawberry and back again. Look for sweet and tart kiwi as well as pleasant lavender and floral tea with a creamy, milk chocolate finish. We enjoy the brightness and fruity clarity of the V60 for this coffee. If under-extracted you can expect tart kiwi and a loss of pleasant florality. If over-extracted you can expect chocolate covered dried berries and a drying cocoa powder finish at the end that lingers and makes the overall cup unpleasant.
ESPRESSO - Coming soon...this coffee is still too fresh. ;)
Ethiopia Bensa Bombe Natural
This is a Relationship Coffee from our friends Catalyst Coffee. Marshall and I (Jon) happened to be traveling through Kenya and Ethiopia at the same time Catalyst was sourcing coffee as well. The timing was impeccable, and they were gracious enough to set up a cupping of some mills and producers with whom they work. We ended up purchasing this coffee for $4.85/lb and bought twenty-five 60-kilo bags. We cupped this at an 89.25. They were incredible to work and travel with, and we hope this is the start of a long relationship. Not just because of the coffee but also because they share an affinity for science fiction/fantasy books.
- The Coffee Commodity purchase price was $1.06/lb when we purchased this coffee.
- The Fair Trade Coffee minimum price was $1.60/lb when we purchased this coffee.
We as a company believe transparency is unbelievably important. However, we decided only to list what is shown here because we don’t know where to stop. Do we list the amount of coffee lost in roasting due to moisture loss? Should we list our roaster Mark's salary? The warehouse rent? The utilities? The point of listing things above is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snapshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries. If you have concerns feel free to email us and I’ll write you back when I’m available.
Relationship Coffee is an initiative we, at Onyx, have purposely created to describe our sourcing and buying practices and how we document them. Certifications like Direct Trade, Fair Trade, and others have impacted the coffee communities in mostly positive ways but also in some negative ways. We find that blanket terms and applying them to a multitude of business models no longer describes what we do.
In reality, every company is different, and we wanted to step out from the mold and create a new set of standards that exceeds in every department from quality to transparency to pricing. The growers, exporters, importers, associations, cooperatives, and other entities are always a set of relationships. To be honest, many are our friends as much as they are our producers and partners. We share information, family news, meals, housing, many faiths, and argue politics. Oh, and we love it. Relationship Coffee for Onyx is the mark of an honest exchange ethos that permeates our company, and we hope it encourages the growth of specialty coffee for the future.
We visited the farm or cupping lab and listened to the producer/agronomist or head cooperative/association to ascertain better knowledge about the culture and practices.
We cupped the coffee, and it scored to our industry-high standards.
We do not buy futures or multiple harvests to ensure that what we cupped for that year is what we serve.
We do not ask for exclusivity from producers, binding their options.
We pay what the coffee is worth. This always is at least double Fair Trade minimum due to the quality we buy, and many times is three to ten times the amount.
We do not finance any coffee. Cash flow is just as important as the final price. Coffee is paid in full upon delivery, and we pay a percentage up front upon contracting.
We are completely transparent from price to logistics to cupping score, to who we work with buying and shipping coffee.
We work to set premiums after a contracted price to incentivize quality and community building. This can be .10¢ - .25¢ extra per pound or community projects such as school supplies in the growing village, sports jerseys, vented chimneys for kitchen fires, etc.