Origin Trip Uganda & Ethiopia – GOTA Coffee Experts Skip to content

Origin Trip Uganda & Ethiopia

Our language was coffee. That's what we all understood!

Markus Brun went on an Origin trip to Africa this January and we did a little interview with him to get some impressions about the trip, what he learned and what might be available at GOTA soon!

 

1. Was this your first origin trip to Africa? If so, what did you expect before leaving?

Yes, Uganda and Ethiopia was the first time for me in Africa, I was curious about their culture about there approach to coffee and nature.

I was very lucky to have my first origin before I started working in the coffee industry...my first coffee experience was in Peru about 8 years ago! I didn't have a lot of knowledge at that time.

After running GOTA for 4 years, I decided to go back to the source. In the meantime I got to know many of our producers from Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador. As I have been to Central and South America before I know their culture, their way of living and I knew that I will live the experience on all these origin trip.

 

2. What role do you think African coffee producers play in shaping the global coffee market? 

Coffee is grown in certain regions of the world. So the two biggest producing countries have about 50% of the market share and they are not in Africa. So when it comes to world supply, we have to look at Brazil or Vietnam.

East Africa is blessed to have some of the best soils in the world to produce phenomenal coffee! Their way of treating and respecting nature gives the trees time to develop their intense and delicate flavors.

Their resulting coffees are currently some of the most sophisticated flavors in specialty coffee in Europe and the Middle East.

 

3. Which farms have you visited in Uganda?

In Uganda we had the opportunity to dive deeper into the coffee process...we were part of the Coffee Gardens Project. So technically we visited one producer: The Coffee Gardens. They are building communities with and for several farmers around Mbale in the North East of Uganda. They collect and buy the cherries every year at a sustainable price from their farmer community and ensure that the coffee producer can focus on the quality of the coffee harvest!

Their role is to process the coffee. So they receive tons of coffee cherries every day during the harvest season and start the fermentation process to give their signature recipes to that coffee region. Basically, there are three different processes with many more interpretations experimenting with time, place and processing different ingredients to the process. Short explanation:

Natural - The coffee cherries are picked and left to dry in the sun.

Honey - The coffee cherries are picked, they remove the skin and the musilage of the bean and they are left to dry in the sun.

Washed - The coffee cherries are picked, they remove the skin and the musilage completely by washing the beans with water and then they are left to dry in the sun.

The Coffee Gardens were more specialized in the Washed and Honey process and corporate with a different processing station for Naturals. So we also had the opportunity to visit this place and meet the station manager Norman. They are experts in fermentation!

 

4. Which farms have you visited in Ethiopia?

Sourcing in Ethiopia was a different experience. There are a lot of great and well-known producers, so we really wanted to see a lot of different places.

We flew from Addis to Hawassa and drove to the beautiful regions of Yirgacheffe, Daya and Sidamo. The most famous and delicious coffee regions in the world. If you have ever had a coffee from this region, you will definitely understand me.

So we visited about 3 places every day. To name a few, we visited Daye Bensa's famous Bombe and Keramo, we were at Snap Specialty Coffee where we already had coffees, Woubet a female empowered coffee producer and Ephah from EDN.

 

5. What people on the farms you visited impressed you the most?

Honestly, they were all impressive and charming. Their commitment to quality coffee is enviable. Being on their premises and seeing how much human power and time it takes to produce a bag of coffee leaves me speechless, but also grateful to be working with such dedicated people. We love sharing their story and serving their handcrafted products.

The most memorable experience of my trip was communication. In Central and South America, I was able to communicate with the pickers and workers in the field with at least some basic Spanish, but in Africa, they speak neither Spanish nor English, so we started communicating with sign language, facial expressions and of course a lot of smiles! Our language was coffee. That's what we all understood! No matter which farm we arrived at, we felt immediately welcome! Open minded people and more impressively open hearts! :)

 

6. Can you share a memorable experience or story from this origin trip?

I talked about the trip in a very positive way. But there is also the reality. The emotions change really fast, you have wealth right next to poverty, you have a lot of children playing and enjoying life in nature and then those lying on the street begging for help.

So emotionally this trip was a roller coaster. Ups and downs, on the one hand you enjoy the best life with them, running, singing and dancing, and on the other hand life hits them differently, but you cannot help them.

A story from Uganda showed how people are working in their community to create a peaceful and sustainable environment. There was a theft at the laundry in the evening while we were there. And Shak got a notification from the alarm system.

The guards got the alert too, but they waited for the theft to happen. We watched as a man inside the compound filled up a few bags of coffee. From the moment he finished filling the first bag, they went in and confronted him! They were afraid that he was not the only one, so they immediately called the police, but as he had a very sharp machete they feared for their lives, they pushed him to the ground and almost tried to torture him to get more information about his plans, carrying 4 bags of 50kg of coffee each! Who else would be around to help carry them? As soon as the police arrived, the whole village was standing at the fence of the processing station, shouting. But it seemed like a relief - this guy was known in the village to steal, but there was never any proof - so this time they caught him and took him to the police and to jail.

 

7. Which one of the coffees you've tasted is the one you can't forget? 

There were so many excellent coffees on every cupping table we had and I chose two coffees from Uganda - one was a new processing method for The Coffee Gardens that involves co-fermenting oranges with the coffee cherries. This coffee was not overly influenced by the orange, but gave it that special extra of floral and delicate freshness. And a Competition from Norman that was anaerobically fermented for 120h and gave that whisky and winey flavor.

 

8. Will there be coffee from Uganda or Ethiopia at GOTA as well? 

Certainly there will be some coffees from both regions. Its our first time to introduce Uganda to our customers so I am looking forward to see their reactions about these amazing coffees.

For coffees from Ethiopia we have not made a decision yet because there are some issues with availability - so once our Green Coffee supply has some samples in Europe we will make that decision - but definitely more to come!

 

        

    

    

  

 

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