When the Yukro Cooperatrive started using their new washing station to process coffee a decade ago, the coffee immediately stood out from others in the area. First tastings of the coffee had tasters floored by a sweet floral and citrus profile that reminded them of coffees more from famous areas of southern Ethiopia than the Southwestern Highlands.
The Yukro Cooperative, like other cooperatives in the Kata Muduga Farmers Cooperative Union, keeps individual batches of coffee from their washing station separate, and in a year can create a dozen different lots from the beginning to the end of the season. This particular selection, is lot #2 which comes from coffee harvested at the beginning of the season.
The Yukro cooperative was originally founded in 1977, as a place for farmers to collectively sell the coffee and the honey they produced. The hope of course of these farmers is to pool their resources in an effort to get better markets for their products. This was challenging for the coffee, as most farmers produced coffee that was generally sold as a low grade known as natural Jimma 5. (Which is a grade of coffee that usually doesn't fetch much higher prices than commercial coffee and often are even lower.) To really change the value and create better markets for the coffee they were producing, they had to change the quality of their product.
To change the quality of product, and be a stronger organization, Yukro, in 2012, became part of a coffee project funded by an NGO named TechnoServe. TechnoServe started by holding training sessions on farming, quality coffee production, and other topics for many cooperatives in the southwest of the country. After the success of those early sessions, TechnoServe funded the building of washing stations, not only for Yukro, but for dozens of cooperatives in Jimma, Gera, and Illubabor in Southwestern Ethiopia. These washing station were a revolution for this area, and gave cooperatives the ability to sell washed grade 1 coffee instead of the historically low quality, and low price fetching natural grade 5.
Since 2010, many of the cooperatives that were a part of the TechnoServe project in southwestern Ethiopia, not only are producing a higher quality, but many have become some of the most well respected and famous organizations in the entire country for the quality of their coffee. In 2016, with a vastly growing market for this higher quality coffee, a few of the cooperatives, including Yukro, that were a part of the TechnoServe project came together to form the Kata Muduga Farmers Cooperative Union. With the forming of the Union, this meant that the cooperatives could come together for marketing and exporting their coffees, and from those benefits, could grow to include more and more farmers. Since 2016, many new cooperatives have joined the Kata Muduga Farmers Cooperative Union, which together are all redefining the coffees from this area.
Lemon, Floral, Peach
This lot #2 from Yukro is all about balance and complexity. Most coffees that are considered "balanced" often are coffees not considered dynamic. This coffee shows that this is not always the case. Perfumy floral notes, and lemon-citrus acidity, are in balance with Peach, Berry, and Stone Fruit notes. The Kata Muduga Union coffees are often prized for their versatility, which stems from their sweetness, complexity, and balance -- and this lot from Yukro is one of the best examples we have seen this year.
The Yukro Cooperative utilizes a *Penagos pulper and de-mucilager for producing their washed coffee. In this method ripe cherries are pulped and immediately go through the de-mucilaging chamber on the Penagos, which pushes the coffee across a metal grate that removes all but a tiny amount of the mucilage coating. After this step, the coffee is soaked overnight in clean water to dissolve any remaining mucilage and improve cup quality. After soaking, the coffee is dried on raised beds for 9-14 days depending on weather.
Thoughtfully designed ....
The washing stations built by TechnoServe were designed to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. Primarily, TechnoServe built these sites with eco-pulpers (de-mucilagers) and systems that utilized substantially less water than older washing stations in Ethiopia. The small amount of water that is used in processing goes through filtration done by vetiver grass and then goes into a specifically design holding area where the water evaporates more quickly than other designed systems. This system as a whole limits the post-process water seepage and - runoff - which limits the impact on streams and rivers nearby.
*Penagos, and other machines often called eco-pulpers or de-mucilagers, are designed to take off the mucilage of the coffee using a limited amount of water (but they still use a fair amount.) Most of the water savings from eco-pulpers comes from not putting the coffees through an intensive washing process to remove the mucilage. This washing process often done in channel can use hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water each day.
Jimma is one of the zones in southwestern Ethiopia, under the large Oromia region. In the 1800's JImma was one of the most important Kingdoms of that would later become part of the country of Ethiopia. What is today the town of Jimma, was once one of the largest trading markets in the country, and the town itself was also considered an education center for different studies. This rich history of this town and region continues to this day, with Jimma having one of the largest Universities in all of Africa dedicated to research. The research in Jimma is especially focused on agriculture, and being Ethiopia - has a particular focus on coffee research.
Coffee farmers in Gera tend to have on average 2-3 hectrares of land - but much larger estates, that are even a part of cooperatives can be found. Unlike coffee producers in Sidama, Guji, or Yirgacheffe, farms in Gera tend to mostly be what is known as Semi-Forest coffee production. In this production system, the forest canopy is pruned back, and the under-brush is cleared for coffee. While much is cleared for coffee in this system, semi-forest production does maintain a fair amount and plant diversity and healthy upper canopy. (and is certainly better than many of the alternatives.) These types of farms can be found around the houses of coffee producers like you would see in southern Ethiopia, but it also very common for them to be stand alone farms away from farmers homes.
Kata Muduga Farmers Cooperative Union