We've been buying coffee from Hunkute Co-operative since 2013, and every year it is a real favourite amongst our own staff and customers. We apply very different roasting approaches to the coffee when preparing it for filter brewing or for espresso, and it's exciting to have such a delicate, nuanced and aromatic coffee transcend the two styles so well.
Earlier this year, our Head of Production, Richard, headed back to Ethiopia and was able to visit Hunkute washing stations 1 and 2. Collectively the two washing stations turn out coffee under the Hunkute moniker, compiling and processing fruit from local smallhold coffee farmers. These cherries are brought to the washing station by the 1,900 or so families, all of whom are working organically. Occasionally they may have access to organic fertilisers and take some active steps to increase their coffee plants’ hardiness and yields, but often won’t even prune their trees. Instead, they simply pick what the tree happens to produce. Whilst untamed, unkempt and wild, the incredibly high altitude and the mix of varieties being cultivated all work together to produce fantastic fruit, which is selectively hand-picked by the farmers and their families.
Once delivered to the washing station, the coffee cherries are first hand-sorted for under and over ripe cherries before they are processed. Using a traditional Agaarde disc-pulper, the cherry skins are removed, and the mucilage is broken down during the cool and slow wet fermentation period for between 36 and 72 hours depending on the weather. The coffee is then graded in washing channels that sort the seeds via their tendency to sink or float. This process refines the coffee by density, with lighter seeds floating to the top and heavier seeds sinking to the bottom. The heavier seeds are more prized as there is a reduced chance of them being defective, and they’re more likely to be packed full of sugars and the precursors of more complex flavour compounds.
Before being put out to dry, the washed coffee parchment is soaked under clean water for a further 12 hours. Once the clean parchment coffee has been processed and graded, it's dried for around 20 days in the sun on raised beds, being heaped up and covered for the hottest parts of the day and during the cool, humid nights. The SCFCU (Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union) are then responsible for dry milling, grading, bagging and shipping the coffee from Hunkute, which now carries an organic certification.
It's often the case that the lots from Hunkute take a long time to become expressive, sweet and fruity, after months of tasting very closed and covered, much like a wine that needs time to mature and breathe before the flavours become more apparent. We put this down to the cool temperatures that the coffee experiences when growing on the tree and during processing and drying stages. These variables are conducive to creating dense and stable seeds.
Now that the coffee has rested and opened up, we’ve noticed that tight structure relax, with a wealth of citrus notes and florals coming to the fore, making for exciting and expressive espresso.