In the famed district of Kochere, in the heart of the Gedeo Zone, is the Reko Koba washing station. Reko Koba is Gedeo for “Reko” Mountain or translated literally, challenging or difficult mountain, a reference to the arduous climb, frequented by locals who make the ascent as a religious practice. For that reason in the village of Reko and the surrounding farmlands, it would be more apt to simply call this Prayer Mountain. Here at roughly 5,700 feet elevation the Reko Koba Wash Station is operated by Firewoyne Tesfaye and Shonta Werku with the help of another 97 employees. Reko Koba also has a sister mill, the Semalo Pride Wash Station in the Gelana District in Oromia. We are very happy to have acquired this washed, sun-dried, Grade-1, Special Prep Reko Koba Kochere for the close of our 2017 season.
Each batch of cherries that is delivered to Reko Koba undergoes a special pre-processing preparation step. In addition to acquiring cherries that are already health and uniform in ripeness, the cherries are submerged in a soaking tanks to identify defective cherries or floaters. Healthier cherries will sink, while unhealthy, underripe, overripe or damaged cherries will float to the surface. Floaters are removed and sold at local markets. This actually produces for a good amount of income, because the floaters can sell for a good market price while the healthy cherries carry greater value to specialty buyers. The process is implemented with care and caution by a specialized team that ensures that cherries do not soak for too long, or become damaged during agitation.
Reko Koba’s operations manager, Eyasu Bekele is from a coffee family in Sidama and has worked in coffee processing for over 20 years. Their main engineer, Samuel is responsible for operating and maintaining the pulping machine, a critical role when it comes to the success of processing high quality coffees. The pulping machine must be properly calibrated for different coffee types – if done improperly, it is very easy for coffee to become nipped, bruised and torn during pulping. Rounding out their main staff is accountant, Kiros Abraham, who helps implement their quality programs and is responsible for the payment of every small farm producer who contributes their cherry harvest to the Reko Koba Station. Upon arrival, lots are separated by screen sizes and processed accordingly, with some incredible cupping notes resulting, like Chardonnay and lemon candy or papaya and lemongrass.
Each lot of washed coffee undergoes an initial fermentation that lasts 36-48 hours, with the water being refreshed twice daily after its initial fill. After the fermentation, 6-8 workers begin to agitate the parchment with wooden rakes using a uniform motion and flush it with fresh water, allowing for lower density parchment to be separated and dried, while the heavier density parchment will undergo a traditional “double wash” for an additional 12-24 hours as needed. Finished parchment is laid out on raised drying tables that are labeled per lot. Raised drying tables expose the parchment to valley winds to help aeration; they’re covered at noon, overnight and also in the case of rainfall to protect from overly stressful or extreme conditions. Drying can take up to 7-10 days during which the parchment is constantly monitored and turned to painstakingly remove defects and maintain a uniform degree of moisture (between 10.5 – 11.5%). When ready the parchment is removed from the beds and kept at a storehouse until it is sold and shipped to the dry mill for final processing.
The coffee growing community in the Gedeo Zone has experienced significant setbacks this year. Over 40 washing stations have been destroyed or severely crippled early in the season, when many Gedeo people participated in an uprising against other competing tribes from other coffee enterprises. Many drying stations and coffee storehouses were damaged along with many small businesses that suffered broken windows and arson. Tragically, several lives were lost in the demonstrations. To make matters worse, for the first time since the 1950’s frost damaged thousands of coffee-producing acres, along with enset crops, a staple food for Gedeo people. Certain microclimates were affected more than others, but no doubt this will significantly impact coffee production coming from Yirgacheffe well into the next few years. Despite some negative hurdles, producers throughout Gedeo are beginning to see a new day, bolstered by new legislation that officially legalizes trade with wash stations; this is widely seen as much needed victory in eliminating corrupt and dishonest coffee brokers. It is our hope that as a result producers will be able to freely develop longer-term relationships, giving opportunity for better premiums for top-quality cherry and parchment.
The Kochere district (or “woreda”) is part of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) within the larger Gedeo Zone, named after the Gedeo people. The SNNPR shares a border with Uganda to the west, Kenya to the south and the Oromia region to the east. Coffee production remains the primary agricultural industry in the SNNPR, which also claims the woreda of Yirgacheffe.
|Producer:||Firewoyne Tesfaye & Shonta Werku|
|Variety:||Karume, Tulenge (Gesha type)|
|Processing:||Washed & Sun-Dried|
|Altitude:||1700 - 1800m (5,577 - 5.905 ft)|
|Harvest:||November - January|