SDN Sidama Bensa, Qonqona, Gr. 1
Passionfruit / grape soda / apricot / effervescent
ECX Classification - Sun Dried Natural Specialty, Q1
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Bursting from of the mountainside, just a few kilometers from the town of Daye, is the spectacular scene of a waterfall. Perhaps it is a natural expression of the coffees we find in this area. They are some of the most vibrant and dynamic coffees we have ever tasted. This very waterfall is the source of the Qonqona River (pronounced Kōn-Kōna). The Qonqona River becomes the fresh water supply for the mill named in its honor.
The producing community is about 2500 strong, and the workforce here at Qonqona Mill is meticulous in detail. Incentivizing red cherries and high-quality cultivation only works to fortify what are already outstanding inherent qualities of strong genetic varieties, ideal climatic and altitude conditions, mineral rich soil and spring-fed, crystal water. The producers are paid a premium for excellence, and resources are provided regularly for healthy fertilizing. The genetic varieties are known locally as Walecho and Michicho, early heirloom predecessors to Bourbon. The mill itself sits at an elevation of 1700 MASL, while the farms that provide cherries all come from higher elevation areas, 1800-2100 MASL.
The genetic varieties are separated by lot, based on the location of the farms. The mill operates a 5 disc pulper and multiple fermentation tanks. This year, we sourced only special prep naturals from Qonqona, though the washed coffees are stellar. Natural processed coffees are first brought to the mill in fresh, red cherry. We are highly incentivizing quality harvest, so extreme consistency is paramount. Inconsistent cherries are either allotted to lower grades, local market or simply rejected based on intensity of inconsistency. However, most producers understand the drive for high quality and the associated value. From this point, cherries are floated in a tank for several hours in order to remove any extra potential negative cup impacts. The cherries that float are removed from the batch, and the remaining cherries are placed on small raised beds for easier hand sorting. The combination of inherent and preserved quality makes for some of the most effervescent and articulate natural processed coffee we have ever experienced. Vibrant grape soda, passionfruit and apricot preserves characterize this special lot. It hasn't lasted long either—it sold out before landing!
The communities surrounding Qonqona and Shantawene mills are very close. The mills are within 3 km of each other. This makes for unique opportunities for the benefit of the entire area. For example, as economy builds in the community, people have access to micro finance. This opens doors for new crafts and skill building. One such opportunity lies in the construction of an Eco Lodge. We have been invited to partner in the construction and implementation. The lodge is being built in the heart of a coffee farm. The idea is to promote Eco tourism into coffee lands and provide a foundation of progress and experimentation with the coffee farm, which will be equipped to sell and export coffee directly. The doors that such a project will open for the good of the greater coffee industry aside, these projects will provide jobs and creative outlets for close to 1,000 people. Needless to say, we are thrilled with these relationships and look forward to many years of collaboration.
- Michael McIntyre