Ethiopian coffee farming partners | Higher Grounds Coffee
Our farming friends in Ethiopia roast their coffee before brewing each day as part of their daily coffee ceremony.
Sidama & Yrgacheffe Provinces
Cooperative: YCFCU, SCFCU
Elevation: 1700-2500 meters
Varietals Grown: heirloom Arabica
Lemon, berries, bergamot, herbal, sweet
Best brewing: filter
Recommended ratio: 17:1
We source coffee from two primary-level cooperatives in Ethiopia: Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) and Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU), both located in southern Ethiopia.
YCFCU, founded in 2002, represents 23 member cooperatives and more than 300,000 families. In this region, 62,004 hectares are dedicated to coffee alone. Grown alongside bananas and maize, forest canopy, organic fertilizers and a temperate climate produce a very high quality bean.
We started sourcing from YCFCU in 2013 and have established direct relationships with some of the cooperatives including Idido, in the district of Yirgacheffe, and Hama, in Kochere. Both organizations consistently deliver some of the best quality coffee in the region. YCFCU is proactive in terms of promoting quality, paying premiums to farmers based on coffee grade. YCFCU now has its own processing facility in Addis Ababa.
The washing station at Yirgacheffe's Idido cooperative.
SCFCU was founded in 2001 and represents 51 cooperatives and more than 76,000 small-scale farmer families. Coffees produced by SCFCU member cooperatives are shade grown in low densities under the canopies of indigenous trees and enset (false banana), a staple food crop for Sidama families. The Sidama region stretches across the rugged mountains of Bensa to the valleys of Dale and Aleta Wendo – which provide a range of quality profiles that exemplify this wealth of production landscapes.
Sidama washed coffees show pronounced acidity, fruit flavors varying from red fruits to blueberry and sweet organic to tangy lemon aromas and flavors, medium body and a bitter cocoa finish. In Sidama regions of higher altitudes – often called “Yirgacheffe type” coffees – the coffee shows the characteristic and delicate flavors of bergamot and lemon zest. Sidamo natural (dry) process provides a quality profile with candied strawberry or blueberry fruit flavors, low acidity and rich, full body.
Coop Coffees began sourcing directly from SCFCU in 2009. Since then, we have had the opportunity to develop direct relationships with several of the SCFCU community based cooperatives over the years, including Shilcho, Homacho Waeno, Talamo, Bona, Abela Galuko and Fero Cooperatives.
During CC’s most recent visit to Sidama region we met Khami Tsacaleja, 56-year-old and founding member of the SCFCU Fero Cooperative. Khami inherited his farm from his father and has been working it these last 36 years. His father started the plot by planting the trees – but Khami has continued with all the field maintenance. He has prepared compost, planted soil retention barriers with vetiver grass and other useful crops; he has managed the pruning, stumping, and hoeing and other tasks necessary to guarantee good yields and superior quality.
“The cooperative serves us well,” he said. “We can either sell our coffee to collect the money right away, or we can sell the coffee and keep our money stored in the cooperative. This works like a kind of savings account for us.”
“Once the harvest has finished and the cooperative sees how well it has done, we also get a second payment,” he explained. “This money comes at a time when we need additional income to get through the coming lean months (between harvests).”
Members of SCFCU have been growing and processing fine Sidamo type coffee for more than 30 years. Overall, Sidama Union produces some 10,000 tons of high quality Organic Arabica beans per year, of which nearly 95% is washed. SCFCU has been certified by Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) since 2003, supporting their role as the bridge to develop producer-buyer relations and direct export OF members’ extraordinary, high quality coffee to international, gourmet markets.
Education, health care, and access to water in Ethiopia are all extremely limited. Despite the country’s coffee exports accounting for nearly 60 percent of the national GDP, many coffee farmers and their families live in dire poverty. Education, health care, and access to water are all still very limited in Ethiopia. HG has a special relationship with farmers there thanks to Project Ethiopia, a long-term partnership via our sister nonprofit, On the Ground. Project Ethiopia focuses on raising awareness on the importance of education and works toward the development of schools for young children in Ethiopia.
Visit ON THE GROUND'S PROJECT ETHIOPIA to learn more.