Origin Trip: Water Ave Visits Ethiopia

The most unique benefit for Water Avenue employees is a program that allows them to travel to origin after working at WAC for one year. Employees get to see first-hand the impact that direct trade is having on farmers’ lives and the communities in which they live.

Every year the majority of our staff travels to coffee farms (mostly in Central America) whose coffee Water Avenue sells. The staff explores the farms and coffee mills, cups coffees and learns about many of the challenges and opportunities for specialty coffee producers. They also get a first taste of some of the coffees they will be roasting and serving in the WAC café later this year, fresh off the drying patios.

Building close relationships with coffee farmers gives us better access to a wide variety of the highest quality coffees, something that excites the wholesale team, baristas and roasters at WAC.

This year, our head Roaster visited Ethiopia on her Origin trip. She kept a journal while abroad, and we wanted to share her adventures with you.

December 7, 2017

After traveling for more than 30 hours, I finally arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The airport was sleepy with passengers as they walked out into the hazy daylight of the city. On these kinds of trips, there’s no time to waste, so after a brief stop at the beautiful Eliana Hotel and a quick coffee, we were off to visit one of the largest dry mills in Ethiopia.

The mill was surprisingly quiet, as harvest was still wrapping up. We spent several hours touring the facility and talking with managers and employees. Our guide and translator, Abiy, speaks at least five languages and is as culturally fluid as he is linguistically. 

After the mill tour, we headed out to a popular restaurant that serves traditional Ethiopian food. There was a cultural show with a band playing traditional folk songs while a lot of people danced. While taking in all the foreign sights and sounds, we feasted on Tej, a type of honey wine, and Injera, a spongy flatbread.

The following morning, we checked out of the hotel and flew to Jimma, a city located in the Oromia region in Southwest Ethiopia. Much of the coffee produced in Ethiopia comes from this area, which contributes to about 50% of total production. Jimma is a bustling town with lively street markets. Cars were zooming around carts drawn by donkeys, people were herding goats and cows, and motorcycles weaved in and out of all this traffic. 

After this, we visited GidAY Berhe Retta, the owner and operator of Limmu Kossa, which is the farm that produces the coffee we currently offer at Water Avenue. He served us a delicious traditional Ethiopian lunch of Injera with lentils, chickpeas and veggies. I learned that we were visiting during a fasting season in Ethiopia, so most of the food being consumed was vegan, which made our our little traveling group of vegans and vegetarians extremely happy and relieved. 

After a post-lunch coffee ceremony, we headed off to Limmu Kossa, which is roughly an hour and a half from Jimma. The road wasn’t in the best condition, and, as one of my companions noted, that is a sign of “good things to come” in the coffee industry. We were headed to the remote hills where coffee grows, which is a coffee enthusiasts’ dream come true!