While it's necessary and perfectly normal for us to visit our partners at origin once or twice a season, we're in Ethiopia for the third time this season. This time I'm spending six weeks with our main exporter, Heleanna Georgalis of Moplaco Trading Co. The purpose of this stay is to both help Moplaco complete some of its ongoing projects (e.g. helping to complete an informative and user-friendly website about its many functions and activities) and also for CCS to gain better insight into this amazing and incredibly complex coffee origin.
At this very moment, CCS' first USA-bound container of Moplaco coffees (see above photos) is passing inspection at CLU (Coffee Liquoring Unit) which is overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture. Every single bag is sampled from three places and then these samples are mixed and cupped before the shipment can be cleared for export. This inspection process is just one in many that coffee undergoes throughout the season before it can be shipped to our warehouse and then to you.
One of the things that is always on my mind when addressing the complexities of any origin (because they all are in some way or another), is trying to work out what people really mean when they say things and whether I'm understanding them from their point-of-view. This topic of intercultural complexity is something that coffee buyers have to consider but few have written about. Maybe it's because for some this process is reflexive. At CCS, however, intercultural communication is something we are exploring more and choosing to discuss because it is such a fundamental aspect of doing specialty coffee, which hinges on strong and trustworthy relationships between all the people throughout the supply chain.
We've found that having closer cultural similarities with our Latin American partners and their partnering government institutions has meant there is a base level of understanding about how to conduct business. This means that on average, receiving the coffees we choose from these origins are fairly straightforward. This is not generally the case with our East African suppliers and in particular, the frequently changing legislation they have to go through in order to export our coffees.
So, while it is unlikely that I will learn all the relevant ins and outs of Ethiopian business culture and communication during this prolonged stay, the goal is for us to learn and convey the current state of specialty coffee in Ethiopia and hopefully answer some questions you have about this fascinating origin.