Washed coffee in Ethiopia started back in the 1950s, slowly introduced by a Belgian Concern that had established coffee estates.
It represents about 25% of the Total Ethiopian production although this is changing, as more and more regions and stations are producing washed coffee.
Washing stations across the country, use the River Waters to process and ferment the coffee in cement tanks .
Cherries that are bought from neighbouring farmers are being processed by a depulping machine, that removes the pulp from the bean. The depulped bean will then move to cement tanks, where it stays for fermentation anywhere from 12-36 hours depending on the altitude and the heat. The fermentation is a process, whereby bacteria will form, as coffee is sunk under the water, that will slowly "eat" away the sugars found in the remaining mucilage of the bean.
This precise fermentation, will give washed coffees their delicate flavour, and acidic character.
Once fermentation is over (something that most farmers check empirically, by touching the beans),the coffee will then be moved through channels, to remove any left over mucilage, and also assist further in separating beans from the best ones to the least good ones through the floating process.
Coffee will then be moved to elevated african beds, where it will dry with the help of the sun and the wind.
Coffee remains in parchment that will consequently be removed at the Exporters warehouse.
Most predominant and world known washed coffees are Limu, Yirgachefe and Sidamo, but nowdays Bebeka, Teppi, Yecki, Bench Maji, and of course Ethiopian Geisha are coming into light, so the percentage of high quality coffee is also increasing, but so is also the washed coffee available from this country.
75% of the total Ethiopian Coffee production is still sundried or otherwise known as natural Coffee.
This process, involves cherries to be dried directly on elevated African beds, or on cement floors, or on the soil.
The pulp is not removed by any process, and the cherry simply dries on the bean.
The fall outs of this process, is simply BAD PROCESS. If the process is good, this coffee can be exceptional, in body, aroma, sweetness and complexity.
The majority of the sundried production in Ethiopia is coming from Djimmah, Lekempti, Sidamo and Harar.
However many regions are now venturing in the process of what is known as Speciality Sundried Coffee, that could be coffee from any region of Ethiopia.
Aka Honey, Pulped Natural, Semi Lavado
Semi Washed coffee is rarely practiced in Ethiopia. It is a system mostly used in Central America where weather conditions are really adverse during the processing.
Semi Washed Coffee is very similar to washed coffee at the very beginning of the process, where a mechanical depulper or uses water to remove the pulp (the red cherry).
The difference lies in the fact that in the Semi Washed Process, fermentation tanks where coffee stays for a certain period, till all the mucilage is removed are not applied, and the Depulping machine, removes as much of the mucilage as the processor desires by adjusting the strength of its grip.
The parchment is then taken directly to the dry in the sun, with its layer of mucilage remaining.
The Term Honey Process is given by the fact, that during the drying the mucilage (the thin layer of sugars that has formed) will turn into a dark golden colour that will resemble honey.
Lately farmers have elaborated this process, and have created different shades of colouring, varying from Black, to Red, to White Honey depending on the amount of sugar that remains on the bean.
Drying of those beans is very delicate, as yeasts develop very fast. But the final outcome is one of intense sweetness and rounded acidity as well as a good mouthfeel.