BELAYNEH BARISO FARM
This coffee all begins with Asnake Bekele. Catalyst Trade began working with Asnake in 2014, and over the course of the relationship, there have been many leaps in processing innovation. During his time as manager of the Sidama Coffee Farmer’s Cooperative Union, he had the idea of adding some raised-bed naturals to their lineup. He was laughed at but persevered through the first season, and Sidama natural processed coffees are world-famous.
Here’s what our friends at Catalyst have to say on their relationship with Asnake -
“While Asnake’s career in Ethiopian coffee has spanned many high points, we’ve had the privilege of partnering with him on a number of projects which included groundbreaking processing work in Kochere and Gelana Abaya (together we introduced honey processing) as well as on a researched article which directly resulted in over $8 million USD being invested by the Ethiopian government into the Gedeo Zone to repair dozens of washing stations damaged in the 2017 riots. He also helped us organize several producer groups in various parts of Ethiopia as well as served as an incredibly wise Ethiopian coffee expert and resource to us. When he began his latest endeavor—partnering with outstanding Sidama single producers such as Belayneh Bariso—we were on board from the first moment, and in fact, we have the privilege of being his very first collaborative partner and of building this program with him.
Belayneh Bariso is part of the producing group Asnake and his partner Aklilu Admassu has vertically integrated with. He’s focused on quality and on advancing the future of traceable, single-producer Ethiopian coffee. In a recent event co-hosted by Asnake’s company and Catalyst Trade, Belayneh spent two days with us learning details of advanced processing, financial management, and many other aspects of successful coffee production before taking to a boat to enjoy the bright sun and the hippo sightings on the Great Rift Valley Lake of Hawassa, where we held the retreat.
Asnake shares that on Belayneh’s farm, “Red Cherries are harvested by hand-picking. This is very labor-intensive, and around 50 seasonal and daily laborers are employed for selective harvesting, transporting, sorting, and drying. Pickers many a time have to return to the same tree multiple times as coffee cherry doesn’t ripen all at the same time. Carefully harvested cherries are then loaded into bags or baskets and taken to the drying location. The cherries are spread out in thin layers to dry in the sun. Only special raised drying beds or tables, which are made out of wood posts, are used and covered in a bamboo mat. In order to ensure even drying and to avoid mold, fermentation, or rotting, the cherries are turned 6 times per day. It could take 15 – 21 days for specific lots to reach optimum moisture content depending on the sun access and temperature. This is determined by observing the brightness of the skin and cracking sample dried cherries with teeth. When the drying is complete, the dried cherries are loaded into poly bags and stored in a temporary warehouse. It will then ultimately transported to the dry mill and warehouse located at Daye town.” At that point, the dried cherry is removed and a phase of pre-cleaning is done by hand before the coffee is loaded into bags for transportation to Addis Ababa for further export preparation at the final dry mill.”
NATURAL PROCESSED COFFEES
Naturals are beautiful…Okay, natural coffees are beautiful when done properly and are pretty much the worst thing ever when not. Natural processing or dry processing refers to the act of drying and fermenting coffee inside the cherry. This means the coffee cherries are picked from the tree and placed on drying beds or on the ground in some cases. They are dried in the sun until they have 12% moisture content or so and then are hulled to remove the dry husk of the fruit. “Naturally,” they exhibit fruit-forward characteristics and have a good chance of tasting “fermenty,” which is usually a taboo in Specialty Coffee. However, with advanced techniques in picking and drying, high-quality naturals are being produced, and the cup quality and taste profiles are astoundingly good. We have long promoted alternative processing methods, and naturals are at the top of that list. This Bensa coffee is one of those reasons we do. Fresh berries, vibrant lime, and a sweet, silky mouthfeel is just part of what makes this coffee so indulgent. Add jasmine tea, bergamot, and tropical overtones in both aromatics and flavor. This coffee will change the way you look at black coffee and may just convert those who don’t drink it currently. Clean, high-quality naturals can be a perspective-changing cup.