I still remember the first time I had a discussion with a coffee producer. It was at the Mattina Coffee and Hacienda La Esmeralda Coffee Tasting event. I had a chance to interact one-on-one with Daniel Peterson. He spoke about the history of the Esmeralda farm, why the Geisha was planted, and the discovery of this varietal’s untapped potential when it won the 2004 Best of Panama competition setting a record for the highest price paid for an auctioned coffee.
It is a different perspective when you hear the stories from the farm directly from the source. A direct connection between the farmer and consumer is not the norm. This is why I think it’s important to bridge this gap, it allows coffee drinkers to be able to trace their coffee, understand its quality and origin, and also have the ability to support the coffee producer.
When Medina Hussein from a coffee export company, based in Ethiopia, got in touch if this origin’s coffee would be of interest to me, I had to explain to her that I am not a roaster but only a consumer. I knew from our conversation that she had direct access to the farmers she worked with, I had to ask her some questions about the work she’s doing with coffee farmers.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Medina Hussein and I hold a BSc in Crop Production from Jimma University, Ethiopia. I’m the Managing Director of Amenat Coffee Export. I used to work as a green coffee export manager in Ethiopia itself. I have amassed a decade of experience in this industry. I enjoy what I do because I love coffee at the end of the day.
The name of your company is very interesting, it gives off a very strong messaging. How did you come about the name and why did you decide to keep it?
In speciality coffee, trust is very important. And that’s why I decided to name my company “Amenat Coffee”. In Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, means “trustworthy ladies”. I always faced quality issues with coffee in my previous role, that is why I decided to open my own company focusing solely on quality not volume, meanwhile building trust with my clients, hence “Amenat”.
What kind of processing do your farmers employ?
Our farmers apply the traditional natural and washed processes on the coffee. In the natural process, the coffee cherries are dried out in the sun, on the ground or on patios, prior to de-pulping. Washed coffees are de-pulped, washed to remove any fruit on the beans before being dried.
In the 2021 crop season, one of our farmers tried anaerobic fermentation. This means that the coffee was fermented in an environment that lacks oxygen. The end result was only 3000 kgs of green, and the feedback was positive.
You have mentioned that three of your farmers placed in the top Cup of Excellence 2020, do your farmers decide how they process their coffee or do you also get involved in the process?
Yes, three of our farmers placed in the top 40 of Cup of Excellence 2020 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I guide and share my knowledge with them on how to take care of the cherries during the harvesting. Post-harvest is equally important, drying the coffee optimally is key and storing properly will retain quality.
Can you tell us about the coffees you are currently supplying to your clientele?
We supply coffee from Yirgachefe, Sidama, Guji, Harar, Lekempti, Djimma and Limu.
Yirgachefe coffees’ altitude stands between 1,600 and 2,400 m.a.s.l. These coffee are bright, medium-bodied with distinct floral tones in aroma.
Sidama coffees are well known for their rich, full bodied, vibrant crisp acidity, and floral and citrus notes.
Guji coffees have remarkable fruity flavors thanks its climate and acidic soil. They are very much known for being one of the most high-quality Ethiopian coffee beans.
Harar coffees grow in the Eastern part of Ethiopia at elevations between 1,400 and 2,000 meters. They are known for their intense flavor and fruity acidity. Many people would compare the notes with dry, red wine.
Lekempti is located in the western part of Ethiopia at an elevation of 2,088 meters. The coffees from this area are highly valued for its pleasant fruity flavor.
Djimma coffees have some stone fruit flavors of yellow plum and apricot, mango, and sweet citrus flavors of orange zest.
Limu coffees are washed, has relatively low acidity with a well-balanced body and a distinct spicy flavor.
I know some of the issues the farmers are facing currently are the increasing production costs, how has this impacted you?
Farmers are now increasing the coffee cherry price because of the escalating production cost. There’s only so much we can do to absorb the costs, after a certain threshold the coffee price will increase. This year in particular, we are seeing prices shoot for the stars.
You can find details on Amenat here.