Our first subscription filter coffee of 2020 comes to us from the Guji region in Oromia, southern Ethiopia. The Uraga is a delectably floral natural filter, sorted and processed at the Uraga washing station, from way up in the mountains of the Sonkolle Kebele village, some 2300 meters above sea level. Owned and operated by Israel Degfa, whose coffees we’ve been enjoying immensely over the last couple of years, the Uraga washing station serves about a thousand of the area’s small-lot farmers.
The farmers, who bring their cherries themselves to the station for sorting, are paid an initial premium for higher quality cherries upon delivery, and a second premium later, once the coffee has been sold at a premium cost. Uraga enjoys a remarkably high rate of specialty coffee grade cherries, which are assigned to a designated on-location quality assurance team, to assure careful handling and processing. This means that the station also offers higher salaries to the farmers it works with, making it an ideal partner for us.
As elevated as the washing station is, the coffee cherries that are brought to it for processing are usually grown at even higher altitudes. The high altitude and remoteness present more than a few logistical challenges to the station and its staff, but the region’s conditions also provide significant benefits: access to unique crops of coffee - some of them of exceptional quality - and a production season that lasts two months longer than in most other regions of Ethiopia. These factors contribute to the truly unique flavor profiles that the station has managed to produce in recent years, which causes quite the excitement whenever we get a chance to keep some of its samples.
Another cause for excitement, and just as significant to us as the quality of the beans, is the opportunity to cultivate our relationship with Mr. Degfa, whose commitment to improving the quality of his coffees is as clear as it is palpable. Eschewing his initial ideas of favoring production volume over quality, he chose instead to invest heavily in quality control, harvest, and sorting development. In addition, Mr. Degfa, who owns and operates over 30 sorting stations and mills all across Ethiopia, has invested in social projects supporting Guji region farmers, their families, and the area’s communities; born in a coffee-growing region himself, his approach to the business of coffee production clearly reflects the respect he has for small-lot farmers, and his contributions have provided the land and construction costs of several schools around his washing stations, as well as ensuring that the pupils visiting them can enjoy access to clean water.
So, we have here some uniquely ideal growing conditions, a producer that is committed to both the farmers and green bean buyers he works with, and a fantastic natural Ethiopian full of Jasmine, Cherry, and Apricot Tart flavors - all in one neat package, delivered right to your doorstep as part of our subscription service. Well, it seems that 2020 is off to a pretty decent start.