August 12, 2015 by beanerbar
Downtown Yirgacheffe sits in a small valley. Up at almost the peaks on either side are the communities and cooperatives of Idido and Haru. We have been buying coffee from both of these places for years, and, even though geographically they’re close, they have distinct and impressive profiles. This lot was produced exclusively for us by the Haru cooperative and is distinctly tea-like—brimming with elegant floral notes and lemongrass.
The Haru Cooperative was founded in 1975-76 and they joined the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU) umbrella cooperative in 2002 as a founding member. Since then the cooperative has gone through tough times, notably during the 2009-2010 harvest when they lacked the finances to produce coffee. In the past five years, however, they have reorganized and are becoming a strong, productive co-operative renowned for great quality.
Haru is the name of a small village near the town of Yirgacheffe. Often, cooperatives adopt the name of the village where they are located, as is the case for Haru.
As many coffee people know, Ethiopia is the indigenous birthplace of coffee, which is believed to have grown wild in the southwestern forests for millennia.Therefore, Ethiopia has the longest standing traditions of coffee culture and cultivation in the world. Ethiopia’s coffee trees have cross-pollinated an unknown number of times, creating more genetic coffee diversity than any other country. As for the coffee culture of Ethiopia, it stands alone as well. No other country celebrates coffee with such high regard; the reverence of the daily coffee ceremony is a cultural treasure and an incredibly important part of the fabric of Ethiopian social, familial, and even business life.
Yirgacheffe is likely the most famous or second-most famous town – Harrar being the other – in all of Ethiopia. When we first traveled to Yirgacheffe almost a decade ago, it was hard to believe that a town so tiny that you could almost miss by blinking could have such a reputation. The reputation, however, is there for a reason. As Yirgacheffe revolutionized Ethiopian coffee back in the 1950s by building a washing station to process coffee in the “washed” style popular in Latin America at that time. Yirgacheffe quickly became famous for its sweetly complex, almost tea-like washed coffees, and the area around Yirgacheffe town remains heaven for coffee buyers around the world, including us. Fertile soil, staggering altitude, ideal climate, and myriad heirloom coffee varieties make this a truly special coffee region.
Farmers in the Yirgacheffe area are very small, most having only about 1.5 hectares of land, and of that 1.5 hectares about half is usually coffee. It is a diverse ecosystem with lots of different plants and shade. This area is also quite populated, making the diversity of the ecosystem that much more impressive. While forested land and tree diversity are an issue in many parts of Ethiopia, the amount of shade canopy in Yirgacheffe is really impressive. While a large percentage of the population here grows coffee as a cash crop, people are largely subsistence farmers. Enset (false banana) is the main food crop followed by many types of fruits, vegetables, and beans.
The Yirgacheffe Farmers Cooperative Union is the exporting umbrella cooperative that the Idido Coopertive is apart of. In total YCFCU is comprised of 26 primary cooperatives representing over 30,000 farmers. Takele Mammo is the General Manager and ever since meeting him in early 2010, we knew he was going to do great things for YCFCU. Before Takele, YCFCU in the mid to late 2000’s had some mismanagement issues and many of the cooperatives did not have the financing to even buy coffee from their own members, including Idido, Haru, and many others. Since Takele has been the General Manager things have really turned around and it is our belief YCFCU is the most driven progressive cooperative union in Ethiopia today.
Haru has approximately 2,000 members and we work extensively with Takele on coffee from this group as well. In March of 2013 we co-hosted a workshop with YCFCU on organic composting where we met with 35 farmers from Haru, Idido and Biloya, more farmers than we generally have the opportunity to meet from cooperatives of this size.