On the ground in Ethiopia

On the ground in Ethiopia

June 7, 2017

The Tropiq team are focused entirely on sourcing coffee, providing a well organised supply for our customers, including our sister company, Nordic Approach.

Ethiopia is where Nordic Approach began sourcing coffee, and it is our strongest Tropiq origin in terms of invested resources, relationships and industry knowledge. The Tropiq Ethiopia team strictly follows up on each step of the value chain to make sure we provide high quality and traceable coffee directly from origin. Read on to learn exactly what this work involves.

Farm visits

Farms are the beginning of the coffee value chain. Several times  a year, we travel to coffee growing areas in southern and south western Ethiopia to visit coffee farms. During our visit, we observe, gather information, and document activities on farms and washing stations. We talk to farmers, washing station staff and the surrounding community to learn their story and create relationships.

Furthermore, we inspect farms, learn farming practices and gently advise, where we can, how things could be improved. We also investigate washing station procedures to prioritise our supply sources and advise on better practices. This way we make sure we are thoroughly aware of the steps every coffee lot passes through before it is dry milled in Addis. 


Now that we studied lots at farms and washing stations, the next step is to test dry milled samples. This way we follow the coffee lots to dry mills in Addis.

Our years of experience in Ethiopia have enabled us to create relationships with several exporters and producers. As a result, we are offered samples from several lots early on. We run the sample through our lab, measuring moisture content, assessing bean quality, roasting and then preparing cupping tables. Every sample that passes through our laboratory testing is then documented.


Cupping is a daily morning activity at our lab in Addis. We cup dozens of samples everyday and document cupping notes then grade each sample based on our metrics.

Exporters and farmer representatives are regular visitors at our office right after harvest season. After cupping samples, we sit down with them to give feedback on their samples and find out additional information. Based on the feedback we provide, we let them know which coffees interest us and discuss prices. For the lots that do not meet our standards, we talk about alternative lots we could cup that might meet our needs. 

Finding buyers

After cupping, we have a list of selected lots that meet the standards of our customers and potential customers. The next step of our work will be finding buyers of the selected qualified lots.

We begin by sending out samples of the qualified lots based on customer needs in terms of flavour profiles, and answer any questions they might have about the lot. When the order for a particular lot is made, we communicate with our suppliers to start the process of dry milling.

Dry milling

Dry milling is the process of converting parchment into green coffee, sorting and removing impurities. It is a crucial step in maintaining the high quality of the coffee. Our close relationship with our suppliers helps us to communicate easily, request dry milling procedures and specifics based on our customers’ needs.

We visit dry mills frequently to observe the process, create relationships with dry mill staff and comment on adjustments if any required. 

Dry mills are where most of our quality control work is performed. We collect random samples of the dry milled lot and take it to our laboratory then run it through our testing process. We do this to confirm consistency of the final lot with the first samples we received and tested. If it is not as consistent as we would like it to be, we would request the dry milling to be done again. This way we ensure the customer receives exactly the same coffee they originally sampled.

Bagging and storing

Once the consistency of the dry milled lot is confirmed. We spend time with dry mill staff overseeing bagging. The lot must be bagged according to the green coffee buyer’s instructions. Grain Pro lined 60kg jute bags are the norm for speciality coffee.

After bagging is done, the next step to store each lot separately using clear identification/classification methods to avoid mixing up. 


The bags are now prepared and arranged, it is time to ship them to our customer. Before the actual shipping takes place, we arrange and complete the required legal documentation for export in coordination with the supplier. When that is done, the bags will be loaded on to containers carried by trucks. We inspect containers and supervise the loading process to ensure the quality of the coffee remains consistent until it reaches our customer. The trucks will then drive the containers to the port in Djibouti from where it gets on water and makes its way to you.