Bekele Kechara Loke
Regional cultivar 74110
Bensa district, Sidama Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region, Ethiopia
Full natural and dried on raised beds
November - January
Sidama has one of the most robust cooperative unions in the country as well as a thriving industry of independent washing stations. Bensa district is in Sidama’s eastern edge close to the Harenna Forest preserve and is a high-elevation area, even for Sidama, with farms up to 2200 meters. As independent processors have emerged in southern Ethiopia over the past few years, Bensa repeatedly reveals outstanding cup profiles on par with the best coffees anywhere else in the country.
Bekele’s coffee was a national jury selection at this year’s Cup of Excellence (COE) competition. Bekele is 50 years old, having worked in coffee for most of his adult life—more than 30 years. Bekele’s farm is 4.5 hectares in size, considered large for anywhere in Ethiopia, where the average is close to a single hectare. 100% of Bekele’s land is planted with coffee. This natural process microlot was handpicked and dried on raised beds on Bekele’s own property, carefully supervised and sorted specifically for the COE competition.
The world’s first Cup of Excellence competition took place in Brazil in 1999 and quickly became known as the world’s best discovery mechanism for quality. Each competition is origin-specific and involves multiple national selection rounds, a final competition with an international judging panel, and an online auction for the top 30 high-scoring submissions. All submissions are cupped blind throughout the entire competition, leaving judges only the cup quality to assess, and each submission is cupped up to five times. Winning producers are often fabulously rewarded with record-setting prices for their coffee, not to mention lifelong status for such an achievement. The competition has revealed countless innovative processing styles, rare cultivars, and obscure producing areas to the rest of the world for the first time.
Ethiopia is of course well-known for having an incredibly high status quo for quality. Ironically, due to lack of sponsorship and an established single-farmer marketplace, the COE has only been held here twice. Royal has been a longtime supporter of maximum traceability in Ethiopia via whatever tools are available. This year we are buying and importing the entire national selection round ourselves—that is, all 22 top-scoring submissions that did not go to international auction. The enthusiasm of Ethiopia’s gifted smallholders means there are a lot of excellent coffees to be appreciated beyond the competition’s top 30 that go to auction. In the COE format small growers typically submit fully processed and dried but un-milled lots of coffee, which are then centrally milled and stored during the auction’s multi-week procession. All national jury selects were purchased by Royal with a flat farmgate price of $4.50 per pound of green coffee directly to the farmers.