It all began one evening of September 2007, in the Brulerie Lapeyronnie (Paris) during a cupping of Ethiopian coffees. That night, I met Jacques, a young geographer who felt in love with Ethiopia and its coffee...
After years dedicated to the study of coffee areas of Ethiopia, Jacques has just created the Anbassa Company to select and distribute Ethiopian green coffees coming from endemic forest of the region of Anfilloo and Gidaamii.
During this discussion, I understood we would have other opportunities to see each other. Jacques is not as the others: he speaks about nature and orientation of the soils, about endemic varieties, biodiversity and ancestral know-how developed in Ethiopia. My eyes were lighting up, we were sharing the same dream…. The dream of bringing to life the identity of those terroirs to European roasters!
For Jacques, there were no doubts about it. The heart of those coffee forests, where the Ethiopian coffee was born, defines so perfectly well the word "terroir".
This meeting was the beginning of a long partnership between Belco and Anbassa, to promote the best terroirs of Anfilloo and Gidaamii. For already 6 years, Jacques has been travelling twice a year to Ethiopia, in order to source the best coffee areas of the country. During those trips, Jacques meticulously identifies the best areas and the best producers. He looks for producers that have planted wild varieties and are sensitive to quality. Then he needs to convince them to identify and separate each lot depending on the parcel/variety. He also has to organize the training, the infrastructures and logistical resources to ensure the quality of the process, etc.
During 6 years, we developed a field work to give access to more and more interesting coffee areas to roasters. Obviously, this work would not have been done without the trust and support of a wonderful local team composed of our Ethiopian friends Shambe and Gamachu.
Shambe on the left and Gamachu on the right side
In the beginning of 2014, I joined Jacques in Ethiopia to meet the farmers we were working with in the Wallagga region. This was a good opportunity to take stock of the progress. Some producers discovered their picture, their name on a coffee pouch. They were all very surprised and happy to see that from the port of Djibouti to Le Havre, their beans haven’t lost their identity and history. All are very proud to produce their coffee. All are very proud to see that roasters are taking care of their coffees, of their history. The history of their coffee doesn’t stop at the end of the road…
Anfilloo’s coffee forests, in the Wallagga region, southwest of the country
One night, we discuss around the campfire about the washing station of Garjeda. "How can we go further than that?", we thought. There are so many other terroir forests in Ethiopia yet to discover... but we are running out of time and we need more resources!
So, we decided to give us the means to improve and move forward by joining forces. That being said, Belco will help Jacques to settle in Ethiopia with the aim of identifying the different coffee areas of the Ethiopian forest. He will also have the mission of selecting the best plots for Belco. September 2014, seven years after our first meeting, Jacques finally moved to Addis Ababa with his family (Delphine his wife, and Armand, his 4 years old son) and started his sterling work. A real long term fieldwork close to the framers and based on education, traceability and quality.
This story illustrated well Belco's philosophy and values which are related to a long term commitment to promote terroirs as well as the people who work and live there. In a way, this work brings together the farmer, its terroir and the roaster!
For the next coming years, our team hopes to bring you new experiences by offering more traceable quality coffees from the Ethiopian forests, coffees which are true to the identity of their terroir and to the work provided by the farmers who work in them. This is a sensorial trip, into the footsteps of the Origins…
Alexandre, for the Belco team