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Ethiopia Bensa Shantawene Natural
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Ethiopia Bensa Shantawene Natural

Cultivated at the base of Bombe Mountain, this coffee was picked in ripe cherry form and dried on raised beds inside the fruit, also known as natural processing. Through technique and agronomy, Shantawene has become a staple of Onyx. Fresh, clean tropical fruit that embosses itself on the palate. This is a clean, unapologetic fruit forward coffee that will expand your view on what coffee can taste like.


4oz 10oz 2lbs 5lbs
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Traditional
Modern
Variety:
Heirloom
Process:
Natural
Elevation:
1905 Meters
Cup:
Star Fruit, Floral, Strawberry, Citrus Oil
Variety:
Heirloom
Process:
Natural
Elevation:
1905 Meters
Cup:
Star Fruit, Floral, Strawberry, Citrus Oil

Story

SHANTAWENE RELATIONSHIP By Catalyst Trade

“We have worked for several years now with the producers of Shantawene, our first season beginning in 2015. Shantawene village is situated between the village of Bombe and the Bombe mountain. The producers are part of a member organization consisting of 667 producers in various parts of the mountain range, which also include producers from Bombe and Keramo. We’ve worked with this group since before it was officially founded (more on that below). For the last two years, these member producers deliver their coffee cherries to the Bombe site Abore Washing Station for processing to our specifications. We always anticipate every lot from Shantawene each year, as they are to us the quintessential Ethiopian coffee - full of dynamic herbals and sparkling acidity, with articulate fruits. This coffee continues to stand out as a team favorite on the cupping table. Like Keramo, it is a dense coffee, with heaviest concentrations comprising the smaller screen sizes (the majority of the coffee screen sizes at 14 and 15). The larger screen sizes are a treat for the very few roasters who get them. In screens 16 and 17, we find heavy concentrations of fruit juice and lovely tea-like subtleties that the smaller screen sizes tend to hide with heavy handed perfumes.

Prior to the 2017/18 harvest, this producing group delivered coffee cherries to a different washing station nearby, called Shantawene washing station, where we first encountered the coffees and purchased them as mixed lots. Up until the 2017/2018 harvest, all coffees from Bombe, Keramo and Shantawene villages were processed together and sold under the name of Shantawene. We were noticing different cup dynamics from the cherries that came from different areas, and eventually began to isolate coffees by village. This led to the move to Bombe site washing station and getting even more isolation in the lots. For the past couple seasons, all producers we work with from Shantawene, Bombe and Keramo all deliver cherries to the more centralized Bombe site Abore Washing Station.” - Catalyst Trade

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 technique 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 Hambela 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.

SCREEN SIZE

We have been purchasing screen size separations from Catalyst since they began. Since coffee is an organic product, the seeds of the cherries tend to have a pretty wide variance in size (and shape), and a natural part of coffee production is separating coffee into screen sizes. Mills will separate the coffee to a size 15/16 screen for exporting, and others are either sold as a different grade or sold off for consumption outside of the specialty market. It is common practice to separate and market screen sizes as grades, rather than only by size. Alongside Catalyst's other strict quality standards and practices, we see screen separations nearly as separate coffees; these separations will have a wholly different taste profile.

SCREEN SIZE ISOLATION by Catalyst Trade

Though it is very common in other countries, we don't know anyone else in Ethiopia who isolates screen sizes. To do so, we must be very careful, or we will lose an enormous amount of coffee. Zele works with the export warehouse staff to calibrate the flow of coffee and ensure each size is clearly separate. The decision of whether or not to isolate screen sizes is also quite labor-intensive: we hand-screen- sort and then cup each screen size several times to determine the different qualities and characteristics. In general, smaller screen sizes tend to be more floral and herbal, while larger screen sizes tend to be more fruit-heavy and juicy.

PRODUCER PREMIUMS by Catalyst Trade

A benefit of the new legislation in Ethiopia allows us to share profits with producers directly; additionally, our premiums are reinforced by the 2017 CAFE Practices certification of the Bombe/Abore site. As part of the certification, a second payment is given to producers following the final sale and shipment of all coffees.

In partnering with Abore, Catalyst Trade sought to seize the opportunity to participate in this direct payment structure with producers, and we pay additional levels of premiums on all coffees we purchase. We pay a premium for high-quality cherry acquisition and for implementing float tanks; another for implementation of our processing protocols, which include meticulous sorting and specialized experiments; and an additional premium for coffees exceeding an expected minimum cupping score. In addition to these premiums, we pay daily premiums at the dry mill, when we are processing all of our lots. This amounts to tripling the daily wages of laborers while we are working together.

Green Cost

The subject of paying for green coffee is inherently complicated. While the amount paid is very important, the payment terms and type of contract negotiated during the purchase are also paramount. Paying $5/lb of coffee can be a great price, but could be detrimental to a producer if the payment terms exceed that of their needs. Here we will dive into not only what was paid for the coffee, but how the coffee was purchased. There is a glossary of terms to be found below which will aid in your understanding of industry terms.

Farm Gate - This reflects what is paid to the producer of the coffee at the farm level. Oftentimes in terms of our relationship coffees, FOB is fairly close to the farm gate price, except for countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, when it is very difficult to trace back all the way to the producer.
FOB - Free on Board. This means that the seller is responsible for any overland fees that happen before the coffee is on board the ship. This is our most frequently listed green cost, as it is the most simple way to present what we pay a seller, but it does not reflect what the person growing the coffee was paid.

EXW- This most often reflects the 'spot' price that we paid for a coffee. All of the cost is paid by the importer, and more often than not the FOB price as well as the transport costs are unknown.

$4.85

Transportation

This number represents the cost we incurred while the coffee was moved from the producing country to our roastery in Arkansas. The amount of information we supply here is correlated to the transparency grade we issue the coffee. The better the grade, the more we can break down this information.

$0.24

Production Cost

The following list includes many of the costs associated with producing our coffee. We have always maintained transparency as a principle but have lumped these things under the label of “production costs” without going into detail. While the following list isn’t exhaustive, hopefully it gives you a picture of the work, expense, and investment involved in executing coffee at the level that we do. At this time we are listing our cost of production for each pound of coffee at around $4.85. There are obviously many other aspects to running a business such as shrink, mistakes, new equipment and maintenance, but this works as an arbitrary cost associated with making one box of coffee. 

Fixed Costs
These are costs associated with simply having a business. Things like utilities of internet, natural gas, phones, rent, business licenses, fees, etc. These things increase every year. For example, most commercial leases increase by 2% every year. We periodically look at these costs and try to reduce expenses, but work in this area are small moves of the needle as these are mostly the same and usually increase every year. In 2019, we invested in a solar energy system for our roastery. It was installed in 2020 and we are seeing a great return in terms of monthly costs of electricity. 

Packaging
This is all the things that go into packaging the coffee from the roaster to your house. There’s the biodegradable bag, the recyclable box, the compostable mailer, different boxes for bulk shipping, the paper that pads the coffee, tape, and a few odds and ends. (Read about our new retail packaging HERE). These costs are separate from the green and roasted coffee but a part of the cost of producing coffee ready to ship and consume. We want our coffee to arrive in a secure fashion, looking like it did when it left our roastery: with style and design but also keeping the environment in mind. Shipping packages inevitably has waste associated and we’re working towards sustainability at each step. 

Labor
We are proud of our team and the way they are so thoroughly dedicated to excellence and to being the best at their respective roles across the industry. We work to make coffee jobs both sustainable and celebrated. We pay salaries, provide health insurance, and give regular raises. Our coffee doesn’t taste the way it does without all of our team working had and performing at a high level. Often we have a handful of staff that get celebrated, but everyone on our team contributes and is valuable. Our roastery production crew has earned a small commission on coffees sold since 2017. Onyx is not just a brand or a design or a café, we are truly made by every person on our team.

We all know it takes work to make anything. Our approach has more labor involved than you may think. Because we visit every Relationship Coffee producer, that means our green buying team of Jon and Dakota typically spend a total of six months traveling. We’re committed to visiting and cupping on the ground, this inevitably is an investment of time, of money, of long lay overs, of encountering government coupes and protests, and forging some of the greatest friendships and seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable. 
Another place we are highly invested in labor is in our coffee quality control. Our QC manager literally cups every single batch of coffee that we roast, scores it, makes notes, gives feedback. These records can be found in Find My Roast. This is essentially a full time job. This is something that we technically don’t have to do, but in chasing our goal of having the world’s best coffee we can’t know exactly how each roast measures up without cupping it. 

We have more roasters than we technically need. We roast in small batch size, meaning we don’t max out the capacity of our roasting machines. This translates into us roasting more actual batches and necessitates more time. This concept is driven by our desire for quality.
 
We have a creative team that helps create all things visible, digital, and print. These folks are very talented and have really helped push the dream of Onyx to the next level. We believe that coffee can inherently be great, but having something that looks and feels good helps inform expectations, helps bring value, and tells the stories in coffee in a way that is tangible and important.

These are a few of the jobs we feel really have more involvement than might be imagined, but throughout Onyx there are touch points of intentionally positioned team members to help create the best possible coffee experience. 

Coffee Roasting
Roasting itself creates loss in coffee. There’s the straightforward fact that when coffee is roasted it loses between 7% and 8% of its weight, meaning that if you bought 1000lbs of a lot you end up with 920lbs of roasted coffee. We also use what’s called an "optical sorter" which sorts all of our coffee after its roasted and kicks out 2% of all coffees. Sorting just creates an overall cleaner coffee, eliminating any outlying beans that are discolored, are quakers, etc. This totals around 10% loss of coffee before it even is bagged for retail or wholesale. We donate this rejected coffee to local food banks, non-profits and halfway houses.

Then there’s profiling the coffee. We roast test batches before we release coffees to dial in roasting profiles, and we often make multiple tweaks. The coffee is then cupped multiple times, used to create brewing recipes and guides and used in training. We also pull a sample of each batch of coffee to quality control. 

We are committed to shipping only the absolute best coffees to our customers, and these measures—although costly—are in place to help create trust between you and us.

Taxes
We all know what this is. We set aside and submit money every quarter for taxes along with paying all of the weekly and monthly taxes we are obligated to pay. This can be tough for a small business as there are ebbs and flows in cash flow, and taxes are often not paid in conjunction with the sales season.

$4.85

Fair Trade Min.

Since coffee was first sold, producers have sought to increase or maintain the price of their product. In 1988, the first certified Fair Trade coffee was sold in Holland as a partnership with a cooperative in Mexico. This was a major stepping stone in coffee trading, as it promised farmers a safety net when the volatile commodity market of coffee plummeted. Fair Trade ensures that farmers will be paid a minimum price for their product, which serves mostly as a safety net when all other prices drop. As the specialty market has grown, criticism for Fair Trade has grown alongside it. Consumers and coffee professionals alike have misunderstood Fair Trade Certified coffees to be the answer to a growing coffee price crisis. Many have used these ethical labels to continue to pay coffee producers a minimum price for a product that has exploded in popularity through the years. We are careful not to minimize what Fair Trade and other certifications have accomplished through the years, viewing a set minimum price as a stepping stone to a larger conversation about how the industry treats valuable producing partners. As we avoid settling for the bare minimum, we always pay at least double Fair Trade minimums based on the quality of coffee we purchase.

$1.60

C Market

In the modern world, coffee is valued as one of the most important agricultural exports of developing nations. Most coffee in the world is produced as an ubiquitous green seed to be roasted by large roasters and sold on a shelf with little information about where it comes from and who grew it. Like other agricultural commodities, coffee is traded in future contracts on many exchanges. This price is dictated by global economic forces such as supply and demand, which is set by the largest suppliers and the largest buyers. The price of commodity coffee has been in major decline since the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement, and also due to forces outside the coffee industry as a whole. The minimum price that a producer has gotten for their product since the collapse of the ICA has hovered around $1.20/ lb, but within the last few years it is most frequently found to be under $1.00/ lb, which many industry experts consider to be under the cost of production. The commodity price of coffee never dictates the prices we pay for coffee, due to the precedence that quality takes in the specialty industry. We factor in cup score, variety, process, country of origin, and other factors when drawing up our private contracts with producing partners. Choosing to list the commodity market price at the time of our purchase shows the distinct difference in markets, as we strive for a more holistic and honest approach to the way that coffee is purchased.

$0.96

Cup Score

As we travel the world and taste coffees, we evaluate all the coffees we taste on a scoresheet developed by coffee professionals around the world. Through this, we can participate in and use the language of an industry standard set of guidelines. This allows us to honestly assign a numerical score to any coffee we taste, creating the ability for a starting point in a discussion of the quality of each coffee. We list the cup score of each coffee we purchase as part of our ethos of transparency, not as an end all be all statement of drinkability. Many of us agree that we’d rather drink an 86 point coffee rather than an 88 point coffee. We list it because the cup score serves as a reference of quality, allowing producers to negotiate higher prices based on the hard work they’ve done to achieve this quality. This is the imperfect industry answer to the commodification of coffee, which can be bought and sold based on economics, rather than the nuances and sweetness in the cup…

For more information on coffee sensory science, check out the Coffee Quality Institute.

88

Lot Size

Lot size is seemingly straightforward when taken at face value, but it gets more convoluted as you look closely at the vernacular of the specialty coffee industry. Terms such as micro-lot and macro-lot get awfully blurry as we buy coffee from different parts of the world. Like many other things in the coffee industry, there is not one catchall term that will tell you if your coffee is indeed a micro-lot. The size of a lot rarely informs us of the quality of that lot, which is a difficult concept to shake coming out of the early years of specialty coffee. Lot size informs us of one thing: the size of that lot. We can, however, take this time to talk about how coffee is separated at the production level, and how we make sense of it from country to country.

The first way we see coffee divided up is by region. These lots are often built up of many farms, Coops, or washing stations. This often signifies that the lot was built to reflect the flavor characteristics of the region. Colombia comes to mind when we think of regional blends, and these blends can often be very valuable to roasters and producers if transparency is upheld and fair prices are paid. We partner with friends like Pergamino Coffee to build regional lots, where within we seek to uphold transparency and quality.

The second way we see coffee represented is by a cooperative, farm, or washing station. Oftentimes this is where you begin to see 'micro-lot' sized offerings, which can often be built from several parts of each farm, or a few farms in one area. (Sounds a bit like a regional blend, doesn't it?) These lots represent an entire harvest, where individual day lots are blended to form an offering that is of a decent exportable size. This ranges from just 100-300 kg all the way up to several full containers of exportable green. One thing is to note, forming a single farm lot can often take just as much cupping and profiling as the large regional blends, due to each day or weeks pickings being separated and cupped to ensure they fall into quality standards.

The final way we see coffee represented is by day lot. This is where terroir comes into play, due to organic variations in environment such as shade, soil type, tree age, and many other factors. Nearly any quality control program that is on a farm level will evaluate harvest this way. This allows for producers to isolate parts of the farm or crop that is facing some challenges, as well as to select truly remarkable day lots to represent the pinnacle of their work. These small offerings range from just a few kilograms up to several thousand. We see these lots most often during auctions such as Best of Panama and Cup of Excellence, where they fetch high prices. Each one of those lots not only represents the hard work of each producer, but they also represent the amount of coffee that was filtered out during this quality control stage. This focus on the minuscule may seem like semantics to some, but as you zoom back out to your cup you realize just how many decisions were made before it arrived in your hands.

1800kg

Transparency Grade

These ratings do not signify the “ethical grade” of a purchased coffee, instead they are created to show data to everyone. These ratings simply signify how much we understand what the grower of our coffees actually make. This is not an “us” vs “them” mentality of Roasters & Producers against Importers & Exporters or Farmers vs Customers that narrative can be damaging and usually full of fallacies. All parties are needed for this beautiful industry to thrive and our position is that sharing data has no moral position. It is simply numbers and math. We’ll leave the morale high ground to others even if this data is filtered through preconceived notions.

A+

This rating signifies we have published the price and payment went directly to the producer as well as all parties involved in logistics. Money exchanged was only though Onyx and producing parties. No procurement payments or bank financing were made. Mills, Exporter, and Importer are all known and quality scores are published. Farm gate, FOB, Milling, Logistics proven.

A

This rating signifies we have published the price and payment went directly to the producer . Money exchanged was only though Onyx and producing parties. Importer was hired to move coffee in the United States. No procurement payments or bank financing were made. Mills, Exporter, and Importer are all known and quality scores are published. Farm gate, FOB, Milling, Logistics proven.

A-

This rating signifies we have purchased directly from a cooperative or association and published price of FOB and wire to the head of a Cooperative or Farmers Association who pays members we are working with at Origin. We ask and publish what farm gate price was that is reported from farmers. Mills, Exporter, and Importer are all known and quality scores are published. FOB, Milling, Logistics proven.

B+

This rating signifies a published price of payment that went directly to a producer but producer also buys cherry from other neighboring farms. Verbal confirmation and published prices of Farm gate are acquired for coffees, but we only pay producer in contact. Mills, Exporter, and Importer are all known and quality scores are published.
FOB, Milling, Logistics proven.

B

This rating signifies we have published FOB price and pay directly to Cooperative or Exporter at Origin. Farm Gate price is proprietary or lacks of records of payments. Mills, Exporter, and Importer are all known and quality scores are published.

B-

This rating signifies we purchased this coffee from an Importer and visited farm, cooperative or exporter with the importer. We negotiate the contract with the importer representative and not the producer or cooperative. We pay directly to the importing company, Farm Gate price is provided by importer and published. Price, Logistics and Quality scores are published.

C+

This rating signifies we purchased this coffee from an Importer. We pay directly to the company. FOB price was provided by importer and is published, Farm gate price is unknown or proprietary information and unshared. Price and Quality scores are published.

C

This rating signifies we purchased this coffee from an Importer. We pay directly to the company. FOB and Farm Gate price is unknown or proprietary information and unshared. Price and Quality scores are published.

F

This means we pillaged the farm and stole their most precious Gesha lots only to fatten our wallets and eat at prefix restaurants on the weekend.

A-

Transparency

We as a company believe that transparency is unbelievably important. The point of listing things below 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.

$9.59
$4.85
$0.24
$4.85
$1.60
$0.96
88
1800kg
A-

Transparency

We as a company believe that transparency is unbelievably important. The point of listing things below is not to justify what we charge or what we profit, but to give a realistic snopshot of the industry and how Specialty Coffee can be different than other commodity industries.

$4.85
$0.24
$4.85
$9.59
$1.60
$0.96
88
1800kg
A-

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