Heleanna Georgalis is at the forefront of exporting Ethiopia’s finest coffees. She runs Moplaco, a coffee exporter, grader, and dry mill started by her father Yanni in 1972. Heleanna grew up abroad, primarily in Europe, but returned to Ethiopia in 2008 to take over the family business in the wake of her father’s death. She was entering unfamiliar waters as she had primarily experienced the coffee industry as a patron of Europe’s finest coffee shops, not on the producing side.
When Yanni founded the company it was focused on exporting coffees from the Harrar region of Ethiopia, where the company is headquartered. Heleanna has since expanded her company’s offerings to include coffees from other regions of Ethiopia, working to grow Moplaco connections throughout Ethiopia’s coffee supply chain. Currently they purchase coffees from Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Limu, and Harrar regions, as well as growing coffee on their own farm.
Ethiopia’s coffee supply chain is complicated. Currently 98% of the coffee exported from Ethiopia passes through the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX), a commodities market and auction system in Addis Ababa. Except from the coffees from their own farm, Moplaco purchases all the lots they export through the ECX. Moplaco then hand sorts the freshly hulled coffee, ensuring only the best seeds make it to export.
These coffees pass from farm, to mill, to auction, to sorting, to exporter, to importer, to us the roasters, and finally to the customer exemplifying the old saying that it takes 1000 hands to make a cup of coffee. Every stage is crucial to ensuring the final quality of the cup, and one misstep along the way can degrade an entire lot. Heleanna and Moplaco work with everyone along the way to make sure the coffees they are exporting are of the finest quality.
The process starts in the small farms and forests of the Ethiopian highlands. Farmers typically grow in tiny garden sized plots, plant coffee amongst the forest undergrowth, or even harvest directly from wild coffee plants. This means the plants themselves are incredibly diverse and the exact genetics or types of coffee that make up this lot are unknown or uncategorized, so they are simply labeled “heirloom”. The farmers are responsible for tending to these small plots or wild trees, and then harvest only the ripest fruit. The mill then takes the fruit, strips away the seed through careful washing, and dries it on raised beds. The ECX helps to find the appropriate buyer for the coffee, ensuring equitable pricing throughout. Moplaco does the final sorting and processing of the coffee, and then connects the coffee with an importer in a consuming country. Heleanna works with many coffee importers throughout the world, but we purchased this lot from Collaborative Coffee Source, a Swedish coffee importer company with offices in New York.
This cup is everything we love in an Ethiopian coffee. Intensely floral, yet delicate. Bright citrus acidity counterbalanced by a delicate body and melon-like sweetness. Coffee production in Ethiopia has become increasingly challenging in recent years, meaning jewels like this are harder to come by. We feel extremely fortunate to be able to share this exquisite coffee with our friends and customers.