Exporter: SNAP COFFEE
Trader: Collaborative Coffee Source
Wet mill: SNAP
Closest town: Raro
Altitude: 2000 – 2200 masl
Farm size: 1-2 HA
Harvest season: Nov – Jan
Process: Washed & Natural
Average production per tree: 8kg
Average trees planted per hectare: 3000
Soil: red / semi forest
Fermentation time: 48-72 hrs
Soaking time: 5 hrs
Drying notes: raised beds, 12 days
Resting period: 4 weeks
SNAP COFFEE are licensed exporters, based in Addis Ababa. Headed by coffeepassionate entrepreneur, Negusse, the company runs, or works in partnership, with three coffee washing and processing stations:
1. Chelelektu, Kochere District, Gedeo Zone
2. Uraga, Guji
3. Nensebo, West Arsi
The company also own warehousing and processing facilities and their own laboratory in Addis.
SNAP COFFEE has been operating for over ten years as licensed exporters of Ethiopian coffee, but recent changes in the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) presented a unique opportunity to enter the specialty market. Previously, standard licensed exporters had to trade coffee through the ECX. Only Unions or producers with over 30 hectares of land could sell outside of the ECX, and only if they had an established buyer. Until 2018, coffees traded through the ECX were stripped of their data, vital information such as farm, region, variety and even water content was lost in the process of combining and dividing lots.
Beginning in 2018, two things happened. First, the ECX restored traceability to coffees traded through their system. Secondly, licensed exporters were given the freedom to sell coffees outside the
ECX, giving them the scope to source and develop quality coffee, and pair the right buyer with the right coffee.
Why do we work with SNAP? While SNAP were one of the few companies who seized the opportunity presented by these changes in the ECX, their entrepreneurial spirit is not what attracted us to this company, rather it is their commitment to specialty coffee . Negusseisan experienced and successful entrepreneur with a passion for coffee, but limited experience in specialty. So, Negusse surrounded himself with the right people, coffee professionals like Abenezer, who understands the value of coffee through long and dedicated experience.
And then there is their commitment to sustainability. SNAP COFFEE invests heavily in education for their outgrowing farmers (those who sell their cherries to SNAP washing stations) through training in processing and cleaning methods. They also invest in waste recycling systems and aim to have the majority of theircoffees certified organic by 2021.
HISTORY AND MARKET IN ETHIOPIA
Ethiopian coffees notoriously change the perceptions of coffee drinkers about what coffee can taste like. This is no doubt due to the amazing genetic variety the ‘birthplace of coffee’ boasts; the vast majority of coffee varieties here have yet to be even categorized. This is perhaps why Ethiopia’s
coffee sector is so protective, making it one of the most frustrating origins for sourcing. Navigating Ethiopia’s labyrinthine and everchanging coffee politics make finding trustworthy partners absolutely vital.
The birthplace of coffee is arguably the most challenging place to work in for a coffee buyer. Coffee is not only an important export commodity; Ethiopian locals are also high consumers of coffee, making for dynamic and competitive local marketplaces. Added to this are protective trade laws and policies that sometimes change overnight without warning. Combined with the most exotic and unique cup profiles and thousands upon thousands of not yet-known coffee varieties, we suppose it is only fitting that the “Queen of Coffee Origins” is as multi-faceted as she is.
There are three ‘windows’ for buying coffee in Ethiopia: (1) Directly from a private estate that can export their own coffee; (2) From a cooperative that is represented by a union that acts as the exporter; (3) From a private exporter that has a license to buy coffee from the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX).
The Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX) was established in 2008 and is a private company made up of both private parties and the Ethiopian government. Initially, smallholders sold their herries to a ‘collector’, who in turn sold to suppliers/washing stations. Collectors had to obtain licenses in order to buy from their specific areas (e.g. Kochere). They were only allowed to buy from their specific areas.
Once processed by a washing station, coffee was delivered to the auction in Addis and were cupped and graded by the Coffee Liquoring Unity (CLU). Auctions happened every day and exporters had the opportunity to see, but not cup the samples, and together with knowing the coffee’s region, made their purchasing decisions.
In the next version of the auction, which was implemented quite soon after the first, collectors were eliminated, and centralized marketplaces were implemented. Rather than suppliers buying from collectors or specific smallholders, they bought from centralized markets and cherry prices are based on ‘market price’.
CHANGES TO THE ECX IN 2018
The ECX has grown quite expansively over the years. Of the 600,000+ metric tons of product sold through the exchange, coffee makes up only 3,000 metric tons. Still, 6.5 million pounds is no small number, and requires a large amount of infrastructure.
The inception of the ECX was a step backwards for the specialty coffee industry. In the process of being sold on the ECX, coffee lost all traceability. Not only did coffee origins become anonymous beyond a region, information about the cup profile was also often unavailable until after a coffee was
Fortunately, the ECX is improving, and for this harvest we have seen huge steps taken to keep the coffee, and its vital information, together.
The ECX now relies on an electronic auction system for access to data related to a particular product and all related transactions. Not only will this ensure that information stays with the product being sold, it allows a massive expansion of amounts and types of criteria that can be traded along with the product. For coffee, full traceability means reliable data pertaining to where the coffee was grown, down to the Woreda (district) or washing station. It also means better physical or sensorial data such as cup score, moisture content, and water activity of the coffee. Additionally, the ECX has revised its grading system for both washed and sundried coffees to improve the accuracy, reliability and consistency of scores.
Our long-time partner in the region, Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco, was initially skeptical about the promised changes. She has been in Ethiopia long enough to know promises and action are often not the same thing. However on our latest trip to Ethiopia Heleanna was optimistic, and said the changes have been successful thus far. For the first time in many years, she is encouraged by the direction the ECX is headed.
IMPORTANT TERMS & PEOPLE WITHIN
ETHIOPIAN COFFEE PRODUCTION AND EXPORT
Coffee grown and harvested on smallholder property.
Coffee that grows under a forest canopy. The land below the canopy belongs to a farmer who produces coffee in addition to other crops.
Coffee grown in forests protected by the Ethiopian government. People are given permission to harvest cherries. No peopleinduced cultivation is allowed.
coffee grown on privately owned commercial farms.
Coffee farmers owning smaller plots of land.
A person that bought coffee cherries and in turn sold to suppliers (i.e. washing stations). In the current version of the ECX, there are no longer collectors.
Washing stations that are owned by a private person, or a cooperative. They deliver processed coffee to the ECX.
Can be a private person/company, a commercial farm, a union (usually supplied by cooperatives), or a government plantation.
Commercial farms can only export their own