CCS’ founder, Robert Thoresen, has been developing long-term relationships with producers and partners at origin since before he opened Kaffa Oslo roastery in 2005. Anyone who has worked in specialty coffee as long as Robert can tell you, those relationships will be tested. Like any long-term commitment, there are good times and there are bad. Enduring those tougher times only strengthens the relationship, and reaffirms its value and meaning. Our relationship with Moplaco Trading in Ethiopia is one of our most passionate, and right now it is being tested.
We began working with this pioneering company in 2013, and its director, Heleanna Georgalis, has been our trusted guide ever since. Ethiopia is a challenging origin. Its coffees are highly sought after for their cup profiles, the astounding genetic diversity, and for challenging our perceptions of what coffee can be. And yet it is so hard to buy coffee there. The labyrinthine and ever-changing coffee auction system and the laborious government bureaucracy can frustrate even the most patient coffee professional. Add poor infrastructure and political instability, and it is a small miracle that coffee ever leaves the country’s borders. And yet it does, and we can thank Heleanna for showing us how its done.
Our relationship with Moplaco
Heleanna is a coffee producer herself, plus, through Moplaco she has been purchasing and processing cherries through all manner of trading and auction models since she took over her father’s company in 2008. The great value that Moplaco add to their coffees is their meticulous processing, both natural and washed. This work has earned Moplaco an international reputation for exceptional and consistent high quality.
But things have been rough this year. Despite preparing the contracts for these coffees back in March, we have still yet to receive a single container. Rarely are these rough patches the fault of just one party, and we admit our own part, we were late getting confirmation from our clients which delayed our purchasing decisions. If we had confirmed the coffees we were buying sooner, we might have avoided the problems that followed.
A series of very unfortunate events
First, just as the coffees we purchased were approaching the front of the milling queue, the zone where the Moplaco mill is located lost power. It was almost a month before electricity was restored, delaying the milling of our coffees to the end of June. By that time, all our paperwork, the contracts, letters of credit (LC), export certificates etc., were out of date and had to be renewed.
Moplaco’s headquarters are located in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city, located in the Somali Regional State in Eastern Ethiopia. Ethnic tensions are always simmering in this region, but in the last nine months violence has escalated, causing Moplaco to close their office. Internet in the region has also been intermittent -- cutting the internet is a tactic in some African countries to restrict the mobilizing power of social media. Admasu, the Moplaco staff member based in Dire Dawa is currently working in local banks who have sporadic internet access he can use when it is not busy processing international transactions. We are concerned firstly for the safety of Admasu, and secondly — by a very very long margin — that this is slowing down the paperwork.
We are frustrated, of course. We want our delicious Ethiopians to hit the market early. We want them on your menus before anyone else’s. But this is the reality of working in Ethiopia. Other exporters have not faced these issues this year, and there is plenty of Ethiopian coffee available on the market, but we are not blaming Moplaco for the delay. Our respect for Moplaco’s meticulous work, knowledge of Ethiopia, and their stellar coffees is not diminished. We will continue in this relationship and support Heleanna in her efforts to counter each problem as it arises.
The silver lining is that the delays caused by the power outage mean our coffee was only recently milled, so it will arrive fresh and delicious.
To better times ahead.
Moplaco Container update
Two containers for Continental are on the road to Djibouti and should ship soon. We expect them to arrive in September. The third container should arrive in October.
Two containers are ready, all the paperwork has been updated, and will leave for Djibouti in the next week. We also expect them to arrive at the Vollers warehouse in September.
We are working on an updated Letter of Credit (LC), an essential document that guarantees payment for the coffee to a government approved Ethiopian bank. We hope to have this sorted soon, and we are expecting the container to arrive in September.
Plus we have stellar Ethiopian coffees from our partners SNAP, Kata Maduga and Guji Highlands available for spot purchase.