The Magazine of Ethiopian Airlines
Cover Feature

The Story of Coffee

Discovering the journey of Ethiopia's most famous export.

The ancient story of how coffee was discovered in Ethiopia has been told for centuries. Today, even most tourists will have heard of the legend of the shepherd Kaldi and his dancing goats. However, the modern story of how Ethiopian coffee is grown, harvested and shipped is less well known. Photographer Philipp Schütz recently traveled to southwestern Ethiopia to capture these images of the diligent workers who pick, wash, sort and pack the precious beans that have become so popular with international coffee-drinkers. Ethiopian Airlines is proud to serve as the primary cargo shipping partner for the companies
that export Ethiopian coffee, as well as numerous other agricultural products, around the world.

 

The Ethiopian coffee harvest begins at the end of the long rainy season, roughly October or November, and continues until January or February. It starts with picking the red cherries from coffee trees, such as those pictured here on a small farm in east Guji, Oromia.
Philipp Schütz
Philipp Schütz
After the coffee is harvested, it goes through the primary processing method. The traditional method is to dry the cherries, spreading them out on drying beds for two weeks as they first turn a dark purple and then black. Pictured here are laborers at a processing site in Bule Hora (left) and a specialty coffee preparation site in Marmara Gide (right). This method is often used because of water constraints or to deliberately bring out more fruity flavors of the coffee. After the cherries are dried, the husk is removed in a huller. Each cherry consists of two beans.
Philipp Schütz
The second processing method used in Ethiopia is the washed method, where the red cherries get processed in a pulping machine within 24 hours of picking. The fruit of the cherry gets removed in the pulper, and the coffee beans — covered in parchment and mucilage — are moved through grading channels into large water tanks, to be soaked for up to 36 hours.
Philipp Schütz
During the fermentation process, the sugars in the mucilage begin to break down, developing the coffee’s acidity. After fermentation and washing, the coffee is dried on large drying beds, where it is turned constantly during the day and covered during high noon and at night. Pictured here, workers on a farm in Limu and on the Homacho Cooperative in Sidamo.
Philipp Schütz
Coffee parchment drying at Asefa Dukamo’s Konkana site in Sidamo.
Philipp Schütz
In the end, whether the coffee was sun-dried or washed, it gets packed into bags. At this stage, the washed method results in green beans that are still covered in parchment, which is hulled at an export-processing facility in Addis Ababa. The cleaned, graded, blended and bagged export-grade green coffee is then destined for trading companies and roasters across the world.
Philipp Schütz