HUNDA OLI COOPERATIVE
AT A GLANCE…
FARM – Hunda Oli Cooperative – 128 small holder farmers
ALTITUDE - 2000masl
LOCATION - Forests of Agaro – Oromia Region – Western Ethiopia
PREPARATION - Washed and sun-dried
VARIETY - Various heirloom coffees
OWNERS - 128 smallholder farmers – Hunda Oli Cooperative
CERTIFICATION – TechnoServe project though no certification at present
HARVEST – Washed: November – February
SHIPMENT – April onwards
It is widely believed that coffee originates from Ethiopia and is therefore indigenous to the country, though there are other schools of thought that suggest it may have all started in Sudan. Generally speaking though, it is the town of Kaffa, from which coffee derives its name, that is considered the rightful birthplace of this wonderful commodity and, to this day, coffee grows wild in the area. Research suggests that coffee was originally used as a food – ground still raw and blended with animal fats. Kaldi is of course the famous name of our industry, for legend has it that it was this goatherd who discovered coffee. He copied his goats by eating the bright red cherries that made them so lively and in doing so joined in with their wild dancing. A preacher observing such frivolities hurled Kaldi’s cherries onto a fire declaring them the devil’s work – until the air was filled with the delightful aromas of the roasting beans, upon which he relented, declaring such a fragrance to be surely the work of God!
Ethiopia produces a wide range of coffee with each region’s beans having very distinctive characteristics making some of these the best and most sought after in the world. Key producing regions include Harar, Sidamo, Yergacheffe (in Sidamo), Limu, Djimmah, Lekempti and Bebeka. Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa and in the Arabica league is third, in the world with a production of between 4 and 5 million bags.
Hunda Oli is a new coffee farmer’s cooperative and is located in the forests of Agaro, Limu in the Oromia region of Western Ethiopia. With an altitude of 2000 metres above sea level and heirloom varieties on their doorsteps, it is by no means surprising that the coffee from this group is excellent with deeply complex nuances dominating the cup. But it hasn’t always been this way. Until recently most of the coffee from this region was rather ordinary – natural processed and unsorted and as such the value of the coffee was limited both financially and within the cup. With the assistance of TechnoServe the farmers have now tapped into the coffee’s undoubted potential and they are now producing truly spectacular lots. Washing stations have been installed and training in cherry selection and processing has been provided. The farmers have increased their income thanks to this excellent coffee that is giving Yirgacheffe and Sidamo specialities a run for their money in the African ‘Taste of Harvest’ coffee cupping competition.
The Hunda Oli smallholder farmers typically have less than 1 hectare of coffee that is shade grown beneath old-growth indigenous trees. In contrast to the heavily managed farms of many origins, Ethiopia coffee has a uniquely wild feel, with heirloom varieties of every shape and size scattered under wild forest cover. Farmers typically grow coffee both for use as a cash drop as well as for home use. An estimated 50% of Ethiopia’s substantial production is consumed domestically, making coffee uniquely central to both the economic and cultural identity of the country. Farmers in Western Ethiopia will typically also farm maize, teff and bananas.
The smallholdings are scattered around the washing station but farmers are able to deliver coffee cherries to one of the cooperative’s collection points. Many members point to this as a tremendous benefit, as previously they were forced to walk long distances to the nearest middleman, who could then offer whatever price he/she wished, usually to the disadvantage of the farmer.
After the washing station purchases the cherry it is pulped within 4-8 hours in a Colombian-manufactured Penagos machine which removes the fruit and 80-90% of the sticky sweet mucilage from the seed. The coffee soaks underwater overnight before being washed again in the morning and put onto shade covered drying tables. Washing station staff then sort the wet parchment coffee, removing under-ripes, insect-damaged beans and any other defective beans. The coffee is then transferred to the final drying tables where it will remain for 7-14 days depending on weather conditions, until the target moisture content is reached. The coffee is stored in the cooperative’s warehouse until a full truckload (150 bags of parchment) is ready for transport to Addis.
All processing takes place within the forest farms and the wet mill though dry-milling and preparation for export takes place in Addis Ababa.
HEIRLOOM: These varieties most resemble the Typica variety though there is no exact way of tracing their development. There are now over 1000 different heirloom varieties growing in the Wild Forests of Ethiopia and the first steps to separating them into lots are underway. These varieties are responsible for some of the most coveted cup profiles in the world – florals, citrus, cocoa, tea, wild berries…
‘Through the assistance of bodies like the NGO TechnoServe, it is fantastic to see Ethiopia turning some of its ugly ducklings into beautiful swans and even better to know that farmers are reaping the financial rewards for their endeavours. Oromia is now producing coffees with all the characteristics of top YIrgacheffe and Hunda Oli is a superb example. The complexity and layers of flavour within this coffee are a joy to cup. Look out for fresh apricot, melon, jasmine and tea-rose floral tones with a dollop of good honey. For me this is a show-off coffee and I like it best in our chemex or prepared as a pour-over’.