Ethiopia Biloya Yirgacheffe
The smallest of Ethiopia’s administrative divisions is the kebele, an area of land that has at least five hundred families living in it. Biloya is one such kebele, part of the Kochere district, a few miles to the south of Yirgacheffe.
Being quite close physically, Biloya is very similar to Yirgacheffe both in terms of its topography and its people, the majority of whom are from the Gedeo people group. Living on small plots of land with an average of 1 hectare dedicated to farming coffee, the coffee farmers of Biloya are mostly Protestant Christians. While the Gedeo share some cultural similarities with the larger Oromo people group, they have their own distinct culture and language.
In Ethiopia, coffee is typically traded on the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange or ECX where exporters can buy Ethiopia coffee beans to sell in the international coffee market. While most coffee does go through the ECX, reforms recently passed by the government have allowed larger farms and coops to market and sell their coffee directly to consumers, resulting in increased traceability and fairer pricing.
Biloya washing station processes nearly one million kilograms of coffee cherries per year from 211 contributing smallholder producers. 138 raised drying beds cover the 2.5 hectares of land. When ripe cherries arrive, they are hand sorted to separate the less dense cherries.
Coffees brought to the Biloya washing station are grown between 1900-2200 meters above sea level.
During processing, the skin of ripe cherries is physically removed using a pulp machine and water. The mucilage around the parchment is removed during the fermentation process. Once fermentation is completed, the parchment is thoroughly washed with clean spring water to remove all traces of fermented mucilage. There are several tiers of drying tables on the slope below the washing station and Biloya’s workers turn the coffee by hand as the it dries on raised beds. The mesh material allows for airflow both above and below the coffee to prevent the formation of any mildew or mold. It takes between 10 and 12 days for parchment to dry until the moisture content reaches 12%. The clean and dried beans are then graded and stored in a warehouse with a region label.
Coffee farmers around Biloya, like the majority of those in this region of Ethiopia, grow their coffee along with other crops such as false banana and corn. The hills in the area are naturally forested and endemic trees provide much of the shade needed to ensure the Arabica varietals that grow here, grow well.