Release #31: Worka Chelbessa Dry Process 2021
The kebele (community, neighborhood, etc.) of Worka Chelbessa is located in Gedeb, one of the 7 woredas (districts) that together make up the Gedeo Zone within the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region of Ethiopia. While many of Passenger’s Ethiopian offerings, including our foundational Agaro coffees, come from Western Ethiopia, Gedeb is in the South, bordering the other famous coffee-producing woredas of Kochere and Yirgacheffe.
A few years back, Ethiopian businessman Negusse Debela, who had built a successful company importing computer parts in Addis Ababa, had an eye-opening experience while on a trip to the United States. After witnessing the preparation of a pour-over coffee in a Minnesota cafe, Negusse identified what he saw as significantly untapped potential in his home country. Shortly after his return to Ethiopia, Negusse founded SNAP Specialty Coffee, an export company that has swiftly built a strong reputation for connecting importers and roasters with some of the most sought after coffees in Ethiopia. In addition to offering quality control, export, and logistics services, SNAP owns and operates a number of their own washing stations, including two sites in Worka Chelbessa, that in recent years have produced truly stellar wet processed, dry processed, and experimental lots.
The Chelbessa processing sites employ an approach to dry processing that is quite traditional in Ethiopia: freshly delivered coffee cherries are laid out on raised beds and dried in the sun for 15 to 21 days depending on weather conditions. Processing coffee in this way certainly involves fewer steps than are required for wet processing, and there is the added benefit of reduced water use, but producing top quality dry processed coffees is far from easy. To prevent the coffee from developing moldy flavors, the depth of the cherries on the drying beds is kept quite shallow and the cherries are constantly turned throughout the day to ensure even drying. To maximize sweetness and complexity of flavor, workers at the processing sites sort out under-ripe fruit by hand during the initial drying period when color differences are easier to identify. All in all, the meticulous focus and attention to detail that characterizes the SNAP operation definitely sets the Chelbessa sites apart, with the result that they consistently produce dry processed lots that are impeccably clean and profoundly sweet.