For many of us, coffee is an integral part of our day. Whether we use it to wake up, to enjoy while we spend time with friends, to fuel our work and accompany business meetings or whether we work in coffee and it is our lifeblood. And that is why it is so important to remember those on the production end, for whom it is equally important and an equally vital part of their lives.
Steampunk Coffee have been roasting their traceable and ethically sourced coffees in North Berwick since 2012 and you can see the team roasting most days from their warehouse café. Founder Catherine Franks recently had the privilege of travelling to Ethiopia along with Ludwika, a member of their coffee roasting team. They joined other coffee professionals from around the globe on a learning trip organised by one of the companies through which they source their green beans. Catherine explains; “Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee (legend says it was discovered there by goat-herd Kaldi in 850AD) and is one of our favourite origins to roast so we were very excited by the prospect of seeing the coffee being grown and processed there”.
Ethiopia is unusual in that around 50% of the coffee it grows is consumed domestically. With the exception of Brazil, most growing communities do not have a big coffee consuming culture. The pair enjoyed drinking espresso in a range of different coffee shops in Addis Ababa from a top quality specialty house, very like Steampunk, to a popular national chain. Although the coffee varied tremendously in quality, it was generally roasted fairly dark and drunk with sugar. Catherine and Ludwika were surprised to learn that it is illegal to roast and serve the top grades of coffee domestically as the government is keen to bring in as much foreign currency as possible through export.
Nevertheless, coffee is very much an integral part of Ethiopian culture and is drunk socially throughout the day in the home, in cafés or from street vendors. The pair took part in a traditional coffee ceremony, where grounds are boiled and served three times, held to welcome guests, discuss social issues and resolve problems. They also attended the more elaborate Gada blessing ceremony. Gada is a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo, where respected elders meet to decide on issues of conflict resolution, religion and women’s rights. They, of course, do this over coffee.
Because coffee is native to Ethiopia the majority produced (86%) comes from smallholder farmers who grow the crop among others on their homesteads. Being shown around some of these ‘coffee gardens’ by local children and seeing how coffee was processed, the pair were struck by how truly labour intensive the process is. Of course, back at home, roasting coffee is a skilled and highly labour intensive process too, and Catherine is quick to point out that at Steampunk they like to think that their care and attention to these little beans is honouring the work of all of the people involved in its production.
STEAMPUNK COFFEE ROASTERS
The Warehouse, 49a Kirk Ports, North Berwick