Kore is a municipality located near the center of the coveted Gedeo Zone—the narrow section of highland plateau dense with savvy farmers and fiercely competitive processors whose coffee is known the world over as “Yirgacheffe”, after the zone’s most famous district. The Gedeo Zone is named for the Gedeo people who are indigenous to this area. As a coffee terroir, Gedeo, or “Yirgacheffe”, has for decades been considered a benchmark for beauty and complexity in arabica coffee. It’s known for being beguilingly ornate and jasmine-like when fully washed, and seductively punchy and sweet when sundried, and hardly requires an introduction.
Kore is in the district of Kochere, one of Gedeo’s largest districts. Private processors here will often attempt to collaborate with select communities to keep the coffee traceable and the terroir focused. In this case, the washing station, managed by Adem Kedir, is called, simply, “Kochere” (and isn’t the only private named after the district). Kedir is a 3rd-generation coffee professional, inheriting knowledge from his grandfather and father. Unlike previous generations, both of whom who worked in Ethiopia’s domestic marketplace, Adem exports coffee all over the world through his company, Ethio Gabana Trading.
Adem’s station works directly with 634 farmers from the Boji, Kore, Buno, Baya, and Reko villages. The majority of these farmers own less than 0.5 hectares of land and typically divide their property between coffee, subsistence crops for the families, and items for the regional markets such as livestock or enset, a fruit-less relative of the banana tree whose pulp is fermented and then toasted as a staple food. Since the majority of these smallholders live below Ethiopia’s poverty line, the quality premiums paid by the Kochere station make a significant difference to the community.
At Kochere, cherry is hand-sorted upon delivery to ensure ripeness and uniformity, depulped, and fermented for up to 72 hours depending on local climate conditions. After fermentation is complete the parchment is moved to raised beds to dry, a process that takes between 7-12 days. During drying the parchment coffee is often covered during the midday sun, which at this altitude is often searingly hot during harvest and can crack the brittle parchment if exposed for even an hour too long.
Private processors like Kochere are admirable businesses. It’s tough being a private processor in Gedeo, as the sheer density of competition among washing stations tends to push cherry prices as high as double throughout a single harvest, and privates often don’t have the backing of a larger union to secure financing, regulate cherry prices, or bring export costs down with centralized milling and marketing. Successful private washing stations like Kochere, then, need to be not only standout quality processors to stay afloat; they must also be excellent business developers with connections and community standing, in order to continue winning the business of farmers and buyers alike, and stay afloat for the long term.