Impressions from My Journey into the Origins of Coffee

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Sustainability | 0 comments

My journey started in the historic town of Malbork, Poland. Picture the scene: a massive castle, surrounded by the electrifying roar of the crowd, tension in the air, and there I was, running along the course capturing moments with my camera. The highlight? Our son sprinting across the finish line, claiming an impressive third place in a triathlon. What a remarkable beginning to an expedition that would lead me into the very heart of Ethiopia’s renowned coffee regions. It’s been about a week since I returned, and while I’ve been meaning to share an update, a comprehensive summary article is still being worked on. Nonetheless, I felt it was high time to offer a glimpse into my experiences and share some impressions.

Navigating Travel Hiccups: The Flight Saga

Have you ever experienced one of those travel days where everything seems to derail? That was precisely my day. Starting with a peaceful train journey from Malbork to Warsaw airport, the tranquillity didn’t last for long. My flight to Frankfurt faced not one, but multiple delays. Initially having a transfer time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, this went down to a mere 15 minutes. I prepared myself for an unexpected overnight stay in Frankfurt. I ran through Frankfurt’s terminals, hoping not to miss my connecting flight to Addis Ababa. Some luck (and perhaps some speedy footwork) made me boarding my flight. It’s moments like these that truly make for unforgettable travel stories, wouldn’t you agree?

First Impressions: Addis Ababa’s Unique Rhythm

Landing in Addis Ababa, I was immediately introduced to a rhythm quite different from what I’m accustomed to. The streets were bustling, and the atmosphere was chaotic in its own unique way. It wasn’t the picturesque vibrancy often painted in travel brochures, but it had its own authentic charm. After the overnight flight and the city’s overwhelming first impression, I was happy to arrive at my hotel and catch up on some much-needed rest.

The Digital Bridge: OCFCU and AgUnity

Our journey took us first to the OCFCU office near Addis Ababa, where we got an in-depth look at their warehouse, factory, and even had a roasting visit. The highlight? A cupping session that was nothing short of enlightening. The discussions of the day were around their (digital) challenges and how AgUnity and our partner Farmers Direct Coffee, can offer support. Our demo of the Union Manager initiated a positive discussion, with numerous ideas on how this solution could revolutionise their operations, making them more efficient and effective.

Two days around Jimma: The Coffee Heartland

The next part of our journey took us to the coffee-rich region of Jimma. This wasn’t an easy trip. Picture rugged terrains and roads that have seen better days. But every bump was worth it. Our first stop? The Ilbu Cooperative in Agaro, followed by the Choche Guda Primary Cooperative. These visits weren’t just about coffee; they were a deep dive into the aspirations and challenges of the local coffee farming community. Their passion? Absolutely contagious. Coffee is their life!

Walking in Their Shoes: The Power of Empathy

It’s easy to view things from our own perspective and make quick judgments. But here’s a thought: what if we took a moment to truly understand the local context? Being open minded and trying to understand their situation, gave us a lot of insights. Still, it is good to share our perspective based on real world experiences, to provide them with a different view. During our visit, we showed local farmers images of ultra-efficient Brazilian coffee farms. Without any judgement, just to inform them what is happening in the world. Their reactions? A mix of surprise and curiosity. It was a stark reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding.

Untapped Potential: Ethiopia’s Fertile Grounds

Ethiopia’s soil is perfect for coffee cultivation. But it’s not being used to its full potential. Soil testing will be essential, to make sure the soil is in the optimal condition for the coffee plants. Besides, we concluded that plant maintenance is not on par with international practices. The Ethiopian farmers will have to maintain and even replace them more frequently. With the right techniques, knowledge, and support, there’s an opportunity for a significant increase in yield, resulting in more income, benefiting both the local community and coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

However, during our meetings in Addis Ababa, a recurring theme emerged: the challenge of market access. Many cooperatives expressed their struggles in finding buyers, especially buyers who recognise the premium quality of their coffee and the hard work that goes into its production. These buyers are not just looking for a one-time purchase but are willing to build longer-lasting relationships, offering a price that truly reflects the coffee’s worth. This gap in the market underscores the need for better channels of communication and trade between cooperatives and potential buyers, ensuring that the fruits of their labour are justly rewarded.

Conclusion: A Mosaic of Memories from Ethiopia

Ethiopia, with its rich history and pivotal role in the global coffee industry, offers more than just a travel experience. It’s a lesson in resilience, collaboration, and the sheer power of community. With the right strategies, collaborations, and understanding, Ethiopia has the potential to further elevate its position in the coffee world in a sustainable manner.

Did this journey resonate with you? Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, or any coffee tales of your own in the comments below. If you found this article enlightening, don’t hesitate to share it with fellow coffee enthusiasts. Let’s spread the word and celebrate the beauty of Ethiopia’s coffee heartland together!


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