I feel pretty silly today... I've been buying green coffee from Greenbeanery in Toronto the last couple of years. I buy in 5-10lb bags to save money. My wife's apt is across the river from Merchants of Green Coffee but their prices strike me as too high per pound. Sometimes I search the web for green suppliers but shipping is prohibitive and prices don't seem so great and others don't sell in bulk.
So imagine my surprise walking down Danforth on Saturday night and stopping outside Desta Market because I see a shelf with stacks of bags and plastic jars of green coffee beans . I go in and they are super friendly (and light up when I mention I have a jebena) and they confirm it's Yirgacheffe so I buy a kilo. They tell me I should buy some small cups (I know they're called cinis) and they mention an address but I forget it by the time I get home.
Curious, I start looking for Ethiopian places where they might have these cups and someone has posted a bunch of pictures from inside the Kullubi market (a kind of corner store with a special section) only a few blocks from my wife's apt. So I go down there today and they have Jebenas (half the price of the ones from Bu'na cafe or Amazon— argh!) and special electric heaters for Jebenas (at Bu'na I asked about how to heat a round bottomed jebena and they didn't mention this kind of heater) and green coffee packaged up in kilo bags: Yirgacheffe and Limu. The greens look good. So I buy Limu this time. And again the fellow there is quite friendly when I talk about jebenas and cinis (he's got sets of them) and he says next time I come back I should check them out.
I go up the street and there's the Kabul Market and they've got green beans on the shelf, too— Limu, Yirgacheffe— from a couple suppliers.
And the prices at these markets are better than Greenbeanery and I save on travel costs and I can buy a kilo instead of 10 lbs and still pay less. So I start wondering about how silly it was to be searching through the web and going to places that charge more when Ethiopians running little markets around me stock the stuff on their shelves. Of course they do! Coffee is central to their culture, if the books I've read are correct.
When I read God in the Cup, I was struck by stories of the top independent coffee roasters buying Ethiopian greens— the author claimed the roasters didn't really know what they were getting. All those beans are mostly small landowners and people with rights to harvest greens from cloud forests— they're not huge industrial farms. So why wouldn't the coffee in the corner market, imported by Ethiopians for Ethiopians be tasty? (they also import injera bread from Ethiopia regularly too... yes, importing BREAD due to the teff flour— of course I bought the bread as well). So I doubt freshness is a problem.
I got home and roasted up the Limu and it was quite tasty.
It's worth thinking about your community— Toronto is hugely and delightfully multicultural... but I imagine there are Ethiopian communities in all kinds of cities around the world. Have you checked out the little markets they might be running? There might be stacks of tasty green coffee and friendly people to talk to about it.