005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow
005 - Bekele Belaychow

005 - Bekele Belaychow

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An uncommon coffee—a smallholder washed coffee from the Southern highlands of Ethiopia from Bekele Belaychow, processed using a hand-pulper and a protocol devised by Christopher Feran—ripe with stonefruit, citrus acidity and gushing with floral complexity.

From Christopher: "6 years after export liberalization, it's still rare to find single-producer, smallholder washed coffees from Southern Ethiopia. Large-scale, privately-owned washing stations dot Sidama, Guji and Yirgacheffe and process lots using cherry collected from hundreds or thousands of farmers each; without access to smaller-scale mills, smallholder-exporters nearly exclusively produce cherry-dried naturals. 

"In December 2023, through my work with Crop to Cup, we bought Bekele, now a perennial supplier of Crop to Cup—as well as Basha Bekele and Mate Matiwos, two other smallholders in Bensa—hand pulpers manufactured by GEM Coffee Equipment, a company owned by the coffee producer whose estate served as our proving grounds for yeast fermentation in Ethiopia in 2018. Because washed coffees in Ethiopia must legally be exported, we guaranteed the purchase of any lot processed using the pulper.

"This coffee, processed using a protocol I wrote, is a small piece of the resulting lot—the first single-producer, smallholder washed coffee I've ever tasted from Ethiopia, and one that showcases the dazzling potential of these coffees. It is exclusive to just Aviary and one other roaster in the world and presents in the cup with notes of nectarine, pink peppercorn, honeysuckle and bergamot with bright, structured acidity and a black raspberry finish."

Read the blog post to put this coffee into context.

This is a coffee with limited availability (~30kg) and is only available in 200g boxes.

This coffee was roasted May 20, 2024.

TASTING NOTES: Nectarine, pink peppercorn, honeysuckle and bergamot with bright, structured acidity and a black raspberry finish
Quite light—profiled to bring out the stonefruit character but express high florality and juiciness.
ACIDITY: Complex and high intensity acidity
FUNK: None — this coffee expresses with clean ripe, juicy stone fruits (think nectarine) and kumquat
FOR FANS OF: Bright, expressive and fruited washed Ethiopian coffees; smallholders; forward-thinkers

FARMGATE PRICE: This lot was produced with cherry from Bekele Belaychow's farm and was self-exported
FOB PRICE: $6/lb
LANDED PRICE: $11.05/lb

This lot was produced with cherry from Bekele Belaychow's 5 hectare farm and processed using a GEM Hand Pulper purchased by Crop to Cup Coffee. The costs associated with the production of the coffee after growing primarily include picking labor, processing labor, transportation and milling costs as well as financing. Bekele worked as the treasurer of the Hache Cooperative within the SCFCU for 6 years and understands his cost of production and export well.

As the exporter of this lot, Bekele received payment in USD for the purchase and received 100% of the FOB value.

Typically, smallholders-exporters like Bekele will also produce lots using cherry collected from outgrowers; this results in a financing bottleneck for their businesses. Crop to Cup pre-contracted coffees in addition to providing the hand pulper as a way to help Bekele secure bank financing ahead of his harvest and produce as much coffee as possible from his 5 hectare farm and 100 outgrowers.

At the time of contracting, the cherry price in the South was 38-43 birr per kg—higher than in the west, but lower than last year (60-65 birr per kg). In 2022-2023, to ensure he had enough coffee to export to cover his contracts and expenses, Bekele had to increase the price he paid for cherry and offer a second payment of 1-2 birr per kg upon export—practices more common to Technoserve-style coops in the west than private collectors or smallholders in the south. A year later, he continued this practice.

Inflation reported by the government was 28%, but most people suggested it was higher locally; this required borrowing more than the current pricing in order to be viable through the end of the export cycle, three months after harvest. The exchange rate in December 2023 sat at roughly 56.31 birr per USD through banks and 95 birr through the black market—an improvement over 2022, when black market rates of 113 birr per USD due to the foreign currency shortage. The current disparity indicates that while foreign currency is more available than in previous years, financing remains inaccessible, making provisional contracts like those supported by Aviary's purchasing critical for the production of smallholder coffees. Local interest rates typically require 14% interest over a 1-year period for export working capital; this is far better than the 18% interest rates offered by private export companies.

Because cherry prices were lower, the birr was stronger, and inflation had (somewhat modestly) softened, minimum government registration prices for export also were lower in 2023; the price paid to Bekele Belaychow for this lot, which exceeded the price paid for the microlots he produced last year, represent a substantial premium over current market prices.

At normal performance, a cherry price of 41 birr per kg means that, as green coffee, the cost of raw material was $1.99 per pound, before costs associated with labor (to collect, sort, and turn coffee), materials (shade net, drying beds, etc.), financing (to purchase cherry and carry the costs until payment at export), and milling. The price Bekele received for this coffee—$6 per pound—is substantially higher than the government’s $3.86 per pound minimum export price (which larger exporters sold for) and nearly $4 above the C-market price at the time of contracting.

Through the import program this year, Crop to Cup offered an additional incentive for coffees that landed scoring over 87.5 points as well as with low quaker counts, adding an additional $0.05 per pound premium to this coffee.

The very high delta between FOB and landed price can be explained both through an increase in financing costs for 2023-2024 as prime rates increased over previous years; payment to CoQua, Crop to Cup's exclusive partner in Ethiopia; and transportation. As a result of the Red Sea shipping disruptions, which have impacted the availability of containers and timing of shipments from Djibouti, Aviary elected to use air freight for its Ethiopian coffees this year. It's not something we're excited about; the carbon emissions of airfreight are substantially higher on a per-pound basis versus ocean routes. The uncertainty surrounding shipping this year has led to delays in payment—since typically exporters are not paid until export—which means that smallholders continue to carry financing for an indeterminate period, risking losses and bankruptcy as their coffee sits, meanwhile degrading in quality and value. To protect both the representation of this year's work as well as to expedite payment and foreign exchange, we elected to ship this coffee via Ethiopian Airlines and receive it in May 2024 rather than via the ocean and receive it in August or September.

JARC variety 74158 grown using organic methods at 2250 masl in Kokose, Bensa, Sidama; selectively hand-picked and sorted for ripeness; floated; pulped using a GEM 1-disc hand-pulper into plastic drums; floated; fermented under clean water in shade for 48 hours, mixing every twelve hours; agitated to loosen mucilage; drained and dried on raised beds under shade for 25 days.

This coffee is quite light; I recommend resting it for anywhere from 2-4 weeks from its roast date for filter brewing and 5-6 weeks for espresso-style preparation (though you may wish to try it earlier to enjoy how the coffee changes and opens over time).

As filter, I prefer a ratio of 1:17 using low-agitation methods of extraction resulting in 22-23% EY.

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