THE ORIGIN REPORT

Ethiopia Bombe Belayneh Bariso

Region: Sidama
Elevation: 2226 MASL
Producer: Belayneh Bariso
Varietal: Sidama
Process: Low Oxygen Natural
Certifications: NOP Organic

Belayneh Bariso, the farm where this coffee comes from, is a part of the producing group that Asnake Bekele and his partner, Aklilu Admassu, integrated with. Asnake is known for helping to push the region's coffee industry forward. Our trade partners, Catalyst Trade, began working with him in 2014 and have since, partnered with him on a number of projects. From Catalyst: 

"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 FarmBelayneh 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. Over the harvest season, pickers return to the same tree multiple times as coffee cherry doesn’t ripen all at the same time. Carefully harvested cherries are then are loaded into bags or baskets and taken to the drying location and 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 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 brightness of the skin and cracking sample dried cherries between the teeth. When the drying is complete, the dried cherries are loaded into poly bags and stored in temporary warehouse. From there, 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."



What is Low Oxygen Natural Process? During typical processing for sun-dried natural Ethiopian coffee, cherries enter the washing station atop donkeys or carried by hand. Usually contained in a plastic bag at this stage, the cherries are weighed with a traditional scale (often painted a rich shade of sea green) and the volume entered against the producer’s name in the washing station’s logbook. The smallholder receives their money, which is used to purchase food and school supplies, and to pay for rent on their huts and small sections of land.

Once the cherries are logged, they are either carried straight to the drying table or—as our partners, Catalyst Trade, prefer and pay premiums for—dumped into float tanks so that lower-density cherries can surface and be skimmed off for lower grade coffees or local consumption. The higher-density cherries sink to the bottom, displaying their quality by their weight. After this, the remaining cherries are carried in wood-and-wire trays to drying tables to let the water drip off of them and receive careful hand sorting of any visible defects.

At this stage in a typical natural process the cherries will be moved to the beds, but for Low Oxygen Process, we add one more, very labor-intensive, step. The cherries are contained in custom-fit big blue barrels about as tall as an eight-year-old, and carefully sealed. What happens next is kind of like magic. As the coffees ferment, the carbon dioxide naturally offgassed by the cherries pushes out the oxygen until the cherries are contained in a low oxygen environment for a carefully-timed interval. 

Many call this type of processing anaerobic or carbonic maceration, but Catalyst thinks of those misnomers since all fermentation occurs anaerobically and carbonic maceration refers to a very specific set of controlled processes that occur in a kind of wine processing and are not possible to replicate in coffee processing. Low Oxygen process tends to intensify the sweetness and fruit-forward notes in a coffee lot and amp up the clarity to the point of euphoria months later, when it lands on the cupping tables of coffee roasters and the kitchen tables of lucky customers.

Post-fermentation, the cherries are carried to open-air drying tables that are shaded by mesh canopies and they laid out to slowly let the sun kiss them and draw out their moisture content. In a step up from usual table materials, the drying beds are made from nylon mesh instead of bamboo weave covered with jute. Once the cherries reach their ideal drying level, they are bagged up and kept carefully separate as they are transported first to a regional processing mill and then to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capitol, for final export processing and shipping to the world.

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