Most of us who buy, roast or prepare specialty coffee recoiled in horror upon hearing the Ethiopian government’s plans earlier this month that would require all coffee leaving the country to be shipped in 40,000 lb bulk cargo containers rather than ordinary 60 kg individual bags.
As you might expect, it is difficult to maintain unique characteristics of high quality coffees when all small lots are blended together in one giant batch. The move would be similar to requiring that all wines shipping from France leave the country in oil tankers.
No, really. The directive would have effective ended Ethiopia’s coffee trade in specialty coffee, which in recent years has already been on shaky ground due to a series of bad political decisions.
A man named Wondwossen Mezlekia has dutifully and eloquently reported on the situation that would become known as “bladdergate” from Ethiopia during this most recent struggle and has now published a well written account of what happened. The danger has apparently now passed, but many of us were left wondering what exactly happened.
So for everyone who was left scratching their heads or, like me, banging it into a wall, here’s what happened.