Every so often, our model of direct coffee buying doesn't work out so well--it's true what they say about great risks and great rewards going hand in hand. Once in a blue moon, things just fall apart. Cooperatives grow too quickly and their quality disappears, the gems that you bring back in your suitcase and hull by hand are sold before you can buy them, the coffee that scored 91 points before it left Djbouti is a disappointing 85 after it has crossed the ocean. So, even though I had eaten from Ekram's berbere stained fingers and watched the sun rise over Lake Awassa, my November trip to Ethiopia had not resulted in a new coffee for Four Barrel's shelf.
Enter our old friends, Royal Coffee. I first met Bob Fulmer and cupped with Alex Mason in 2004. We bought many of our early, beautiful Four Barrel coffees through them as we were figuring out, through trial and error, how to work directly with producers. We have learned so much about coffee buying from Royal over the years, so it was no surprise that just when we thought we were going to have a year without a gorgeous Ethiopian coffee, Alex Mason sent along a sample of the Halo Hartume.
Mijane Woresa has worked in coffee in Ethiopia for more than 30 years, so it was with the insight that only comes from that kind of experience that he got his own export license in 2017. This enabled him to sell the coffee from his washing station near the infamous Yirgacheffe town, Halo Hartume, directly to Royal. Historically, coffee farmers in this region have sold their coffee anonymously through the ECX and the coffee has been labeled by region. Now, Mijane and his son, Daniel, work directly with 400 smallholder farmers and take great care in washing, fermenting, drying and transporting their coffee at Halo Hartume.
Farmers grow their coffee on small plots and when the cherries arrive at the washing station, they are carefully hand sorted and separated by density. The beans are de-pulped and fermented for 48 hours before being sorted again for quality in washing channels. The parchment is taken to raised beds, hand sorted again, and selectively sun dried for 12-15 days.
While all of this is standard processing for high quality Ethiopian coffee, the watchfulness and attention to detail required to result in an excellent coffee is something that we're always looking for. And when the Halo Hartume showed up on our cupping table, Sarah and I did a little dance of joy. The delicate lilacs! The elegant jasmine! The crisp, bright acidicty! The integrated structure! Thank you, Royal and Mijane Woresa, for succeeding in a direct trade relationship in Ethiopia in a year that we needed a little help from our friends.