Tadesse Degefa, a senior cupper at S.A Bagersh Private Limited Company (PLC), a renowned Ethiopian coffee firm and the birthplace of coffee Arabica, is witnessing a surge in interest among Ethiopian coffee producers and exporters to penetrate the rapidly growing Chinese coffee market.
Degefa emphasizes the uniqueness of Ethiopian coffee beans, which are grown organically in the highlands without the use of chemicals or herbicides.
He further underscored the crucial role of cupping in identifying the best coffee varieties, ensuring that the beans meet the highest standards in terms of body size, flavor, aroma, and other qualities before they are shipped.
“With the cupping, we identify the flavor, the body, the acidity and the other qualities of the coffee,” Degefa told Xinhua in a recent interview.
He argues this uniqueness of the Ethiopian coffee beans as well as its cupping and production process offers coffee exporters an important impetus towards penetrating the lucrative Chinese coffee market.
Kassahun Hirutu, the Operation Manager of S.A Bagersh PLC, also sheds light on the meticulous processes involved in preparing the coffee beans for export, which eventually boosts the final output’s export standard.
The meticulous coffee process mainly undergoes two main techniques – sun-drying and wet washing. After pulping, the beans are soaked in a tanker for 32 to 46 hours, followed by repeated washing and drying on nets for at least 21 days.
Hirutu anticipates an increase in coffee exports to China, mainly attributing to the growing trend and preference among the Chinese population for coffee, especially the youth, as well as the high-quality of Ethiopian coffee.
“We are making good relations with the Chinese. Chinese companies are also approaching us. I think in a couple of years, we will have the same market as other countries, also in China,” he said.
He highlights the positive relationships established with Chinese companies, indicating that in the coming years, Ethiopia will have a significant presence in the Chinese coffee market.
Wondweson Mengesha, a senior technician at S.A Bagersh PLC, also observed a notable rise in the volume of organic coffee shipments to China over the past three years.
He expressed optimism about the market prospects, particularly in China, where the demand for Ethiopian coffee is growing.
“This time around we are sending an increasing volume of coffee to China. We have witnessed a better market there,” Mengesha said.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation next to Nigeria, is widely recognized for its rich coffee quality and flavor, which ranges from winy to fruity and chocolaty, making its coffee varieties on demand across the globe.
The East African country earned more than 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in revenue from exporting around 240,000 metric tons of coffee to the international market during the just-concluded Ethiopian 2022/23 fiscal year that ended on July 7, according to figures from the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority.
The coffee market has been evolving over the years in China where tea has been a traditional drink, Gizat Worku, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ethiopian Coffee Association, which is engaged in promoting Ethiopian coffee in the international market, told Xinhua recently.
“China is an emerging market for Ethiopian coffee exporters. Any businessman cannot ignore China whose market potential has turned out to be rich over time,” Worku said.
According to Worku, Ethiopia’s coffee export volume to China has seen impressive growth with an export volume of 4,200 tonnes in the 2019/2020 Ethiopian fiscal year, 8,400 tonnes in the 2020/2021 fiscal year and 11,200 tonnes of coffee last fiscal year which ended on July 7, 2022.
Ethiopian coffee exporters are optimistic that within the coming 10 years, more Ethiopian coffee might go to China and his association is ready to satisfy the growing demand there with timely delivery of the specialty coffee which he referred to as “de facto organic.”