coffee with the power to influence

“How many hands does your coffee have to go through?”

In Coffee Links, Social Justice & Environment on July 6, 2010 at 12:20 am

Asnakech Thomas was born on a coffee plantation and is proud that her family comes from coffee land deep in the Southern People’s Region of Ethiopia. In February 2007, her coffee placed first in a pre-selection process for Ethiopia’s first-ever private coffee auction. The result? She sold her coffee for $2 per pound, a 50 percent increase from what she received before. Asnakech is a client of Fintrac’s USAID-funded Agribusiness and Trade Expansion Activity (ATEA), which improves specialty coffee production and quality in Ethiopia.

Fintrac helped Asnakech install a coffee processing machine and showed her how to run the eco-friendly pulper. The project also deployed agronomists and consultants to her mill to advise her on how to create specialty coffee at every step of coffee processing — from looking after trees, to picking, to drying cherries. At the same time, Fintrac was working on the other side of the coffee chain by organizing an open outcry private specialty coffee auction. The 2007 Ethiopia Limited Coffee Auction connected Ethiopian farmers with buyers from more than 40 countries. Whereas the current standard buying price for coffee is $1.30 per pound, at the auction, lots were purchased for as much as $5 per pound, an increase of over 280 percent.

While Asnakech was finishing up processing coffee for the season, samples of her coffee and samples from 20 other growers were shipped around the world for buyers to taste and grade. The Fintrac-supported auction gave producers like Asnakech an opportunity to reach new markets and showcase their specialty coffee. The lots sold at the auction were small and select, and enabled buyers and producers to connect and make long-term trade commitments. Asnakech’s lot was bought by an exporter in the US, and, because of the auction, she has made connections with other buyers and set up sales accordingly. With Fintrac’s help she went all the way from planting her trees to selling her coffee.

“Before,” Asnakech says, “I only knew coffee in the cup.” She mimics holding a delicate porcelain cup between her thumb and forefinger and drinking from it. “Now I know exactly how many hands the coffee has to go through to get there.” As for her coffee placing first, Asnakech says that it was good, but not good enough. “I received a score of 95. Next time I want 100.” USAID-ATEA is going to help make this happen by educating Asnakech about more technical selection processes to make her coffee even better. “I have two containers this year,” Asnakech says. “Next year I want four.” Asnakech knows she stands out in the coffee industry as a woman, but the fact that she is the only woman coffee producer and exporter makes her just want to try harder. “In the beginning, the farmers who bring their cherry to my mill could not believe a lady was in charge. Now they are used to it. It’s good — almost 80 percent of the people who pick my coffee are women. I want to encourage them.”

The information in the preceeding article was taken from a Fintrac presss release

Both of Asnakech Thomas’ award winning coffees,  Amaro Gayo Natural & Amaro Gayo Washed, will be available in August @

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