Amaro Gayo, Premier Ethiopian Coffee Milled and Exported by a Woman March 28, 2014

In the Ethiopian valley of Amaro lies a coffee mill known for its aromatic flavors, a combination of rich fruit, luscious citrus, and mouth-watering chocolate.  Exported world-wide, Amaro Gayo coffee is known not only for its excellent flavor, but also for the fact that it is the only coffee in Ethiopia milled and exported by a woman.

 In 2005, Asnakech Thomas returned to her native town of Ethiopia from England to not only improve the quality and flavor of coffee, but also the living conditions of the community in which she grew up.

 Concerned about the poor health care available in Amaro and rural Ethiopia, Thomas hopes that Amaro will establish a hospital for mothers-to-be and their young children. Expectant mothers in Amaro have to travel 116 kilometers to the nearest hospital to deliver their babies.  Experiencing first-hand how her sister lost a baby during her travels, Thomas has a personal desire to have better care at a closer distance for mothers and their young children.  “The mothers in the countryside are the real organizers of the families’ affairs, health and education for children,” states Thomas, “These are the ones that need help.  Everyone should be aware of these issues.”

 Also near and dear to Thomas’ heart is educating her community about HIV and AIDS.  “I am very interested in improving the living conditions for the people of Amaro Special Woreda (district) where I was brought up through the help of USAID training and awareness about HIV (and) AIDS(which was) brought to a large group of coffee farmers in Amaro.”

 With a vision in mind to help her community and create a world-renowned coffee, Thomas is scrupulous about the way she harvests, sorts, and mills the coffee beans at Amaro Gayo. Accepting only the most perfect coffee beans, Thomas works alongside the local growers at the washing station to choose only the most ripe and freshly picked cherries for processing. 

Thomas’ Amaro Gayo’s mill, the only women owned mill in Ethiopia is located at an altitude of 5200 feet with their naturally processed coffee harvest schedule running between October through March. Red Whale Coffee’s Amaro Gayo, sourced from Thomas’ mill is a naturally processed coffee..  The natural process at Thomas’ mill starts by choosing only the highest quality ripe and ready coffee cherries (this quality control is maintained by Thomas herself).  Cherries are then placed on raised African beds, keeping the coffee clean and free from soil.  The raised bed drying method creates  an even aeration, allowing the dry air to reach the beans from above and below the beds.

Amaro Gayo employs 32 full time workers year round and increases the workforce to 200 seasonal workers during critical coffee production months from September to March.  Most of the workers are women and girls which gives Thomas day-to-day knowledge of their domestic and health matters.  “My door is always open,” says Thomas, “and they often talk to me about their difficulties.”

 In 2004, Red Whale Coffee began sourcing coffee from women-owned growers and processing mills within the Café Feminino co-operative. Raised by a single mother, Sean Boyd is a champion for the empowerment of women.  He strives to support the women's movement in coffee growing regions whenever he sees an opportunity. Sourcing the highest quality coffee is paramount to his business philosophy, and when his daily business operations can support the work of women and their community, it becomes a rewarding collaboration of the labor and love for what "we" do in and with coffee, beyond the cup, making a bigger impact locally and directly at the coffee sources.  “Sourcing the highest quality coffee is first and foremost and we have found that the women owned and produced coffees consistently meet or exceed our expectations!  Coffee is an emotional and grass roots product that many of us don’t understand.  It can change peoples lives one cup at a time, it goes beyond the cup.”- Sean Boyd

If you are interested in trying Red Whale Coffee’s Amaro Gayo naturally processed coffee we currently have it available in our webstore.