Tikur Anbessa Ethiopia
- July 2018
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
Birthplace of Coffee
For all of humankind’s talent and accomplishment, our best work still only approximates the raw beauty found in nature. In the coffee world, resourceful and motivated farmers around the globe put Herculean efforts into making coffees with exceptional taste. Sometimes, when things break the right way, they succeed. Producing greatness, it turns out, is very hard. But there is one place on Earth that creates extreme quality with seeming ease, as though it were just a matter of throwing a seed in the ground and letting it grow.
Ethiopia leans back and drops beautiful coffees the way Stephen Curry hits jump shots: almost effortlessly, with smile and a wink. It’s really not fair. Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, does have an unfair advantage over everyone else. It’s as if the environmental conditions in this place are made for growing extraordinary coffee. And in fact, they are. It was no accident that of all the places on Earth, coffee decided to show up here, in the forests of Southwestern Ethiopia.
An average coffee here is better than great ones from many other countries. Yet for that very reason, expectations are higher too. To live up to our heightened expectations, the coffee has to be spectacular, with expressive, profoundly nuanced flavor and gorgeous aromatics that make it truly memorable.
Tikur Anbessa — The Black Lion
In keeping with our lofty standards for Ethiopian coffee, we chose the most powerful icon we could find as the name of this coffee project: Tikur Anbessa, the Black Lion. King of the Forest. Conquering Lion, symbol of the strength of the Ethiopian nation. The Black Lion is unique to Ethiopia, and uniquely beautiful. It represents everything we expect in coffee from Southern Ethiopia.
METAD and The Tikur Anbessa Farmers
Tikur Anbessa is a result of the collective efforts of hundreds of individual farmers living in the neighboring communities of Buku and Benti Nenqa who have made the decision to partner with METAD, a family-run operation that was founded with the express goal of improving both income and opportunity for Ethiopian smallholders. The quantity of coffee each these farmers produces individually is very small, on average less than 1,500 pounds per season, but that figure is on the rise as a direct result of METAD’s investment in the region.
METAD set out with a plan to produce coffees using the kind of meticulous, detailed approach in post-harvest care that countries in Latin America have pioneered in an effort to make coffees that take full advantage of all of Ethiopia’s natural gifts. That effort, naturally, starts at the farm, but it doesn’t end there.
METAD began a farm project in Hambela nearly five years ago, featuring seedling distribution and farmer training programs to provide growers in the area with the resources they need to get excited about coffee again. The amount of coffee being cultivated has grown steadily, and yields have already begun to improve. This work has helped put Guji on the map, both locally and in the international market. METAD has revitalized a part of the country that had been marginalized for decades, and has already made profound impact on the value of coffees for the entire zone in a short time.
METAD’s washing stations are immaculate, and every step of the process, from cherry reception and separation all the way through washing, fermentation and drying, is managed with exceptional rigor. METAD is betting on quality, and has motivated thousands of local growers to join it. Together, they are reshaping the future of coffee in the region, leading the charge to demonstrate that the right kind of effort combined with a long-term vision, collaborative spirit and an open-hearted commitment to transparency is the recipe for real change. Both the quality of its coffees and the returns it delivers to growers are best-in-class, but the value it is creating goes far beyond any price-per-pound metric. METAD is active in all aspects of community-building, from the construction of roads and clinics and schools to the sponsorship of local sports teams.
METAD’s own history in coffee begins with an extraordinary woman, Muluemebet Emiru, Ethiopia’s first female pilot, who was awarded farmland for her service during WWII. Today, METAD honors its roots by prioritizing women in hiring at its washing stations and investing in cervical cancer prevention programs.
We are excited to be partnered with people who share both our love for coffee, our understanding that exceptional taste is the most effective way to improve the value of coffee, and our conviction that sustained greatness is only possible when the economic benefits from the sale of coffees are shared by everyone involved in the process. From the outset, this project was meant to be ambitious, with a goal of producing some of the most exciting and sustainable coffees on the continent.
This is Tikur Anbessa (TEA-koor ANH-bess-ah), the Black Lion of Ethiopia.