Reko Koba Mill
-97 permanent workers
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In the famed district of Kochere, in the heart of Gedeo Zone, very close to bustling Rego Village and under the benevolent gaze of Reko Mountain, is a new relationship for us this year: Reko Koba mill. On a sunny day, the yellow plastic used to wrap drying cherries stands in contrast to the bright green hill and cerulean blue of the sky. The layout of Reko is typical of an Ethiopian wet mill, but the particulars are quite efficient. 97 full-time employees work at the mill, which has a 3-disk pulper with a 1,000 kg/hour optimum processing pace. An estimated 400,00 kgs of red cherries were produced for washed coffees this year. Other processes include experimental naturals and honey process, very rare to Ethiopia, and implementing some rudimentary parabolic drying beds.
Eyasu Bekele, who is Sidama and has 20 years experience in coffee processing in and around the famous Sidama districts of Dale and Awassa, is Operations manager at Reko Mountain Mill. His assistant manager is Kiros Abraham, with mechanic Samuel providing able oversight of the pulper. Reko Koba is leased by a sister company, which also owns Semalo Pride mill, and on our recommendation is adopting the same process improvements as Pride: floating tanks to remove low-density coffees before processing, replacing bamboo drying beds with metal and plastic mesh to reduce mold risk, and training for process protocols on all fronts. Additional focuses are selective cherry protocols and premiums paid to farmers for ripe cherries. All these emphases have resulted in every batch of coffee from the mill this year receiving a Q1 specialty designation by the Ethiopian government (CLU), which is a huge accomplishment.
Typically, lower density coffees are channeled to smaller tanks that hold 2-3000 kgs, while higher density (healthier) cherries are diverted to larger tanks of around 10,000 kgs capacity. After this stage, the coffee cherries are fermented for 72 hours and the water is changed twice. Post-fermentation, the coffee enters washing channels where it is scrubbed by cheerful crews of barefooted workers for up to thirty minutes, until the mucilage is removed. The water is changed three times in this process. After washing, high density coffees are soaked for 12-36 hours depending on cloud cover and availability of drying tables, before being dried to the regulation 10.5-11.5% water content. This is the classic double-wash method for Ethiopian coffees.
The owner of Reko Koba mill is a tall, beaming older man name Shonta Werku, himself a coffee farmer for decades, who is delighted to see the property and community developed intentionally. 2016/17 is this mill’s first production year and early cupping results are extremely positive. We have hopes of many outstanding lots making their way from this dedicated team to the cupping tables of roasters around the world.