A new family-run coffee company called Dilla Coffee has cut the ribbon on a production roastery and retail store in Dallas, selling coffees grown by extended family members in Ethiopia’s renowned Yirgacheffe region.
Owned by two brothers and a son/nephew, the new Dallas roasting company is sourcing coffee directly from relatives who operate a 30-hectare farm in Ethiopia. The family network is currently preparing a second farm while also exploring more partnerships with other local producers for improved quality and capacity.
The North Texas side of the business is operated by Yonatan Hailu, his father Simon Sima and uncle Kabede Degefu.
“[Coffee] is what the family does. Me and my brother, we ran away from that,” Degefu recently told DCN. “[Simon] was the one who was always saying, ‘Why don’t we follow the family?’ He is very talented and he is business minded, so he is the one who drove this, and brought me back to where we belong. And we are trying to pass it onto the next generation, like Yonatan and the rest of our kids.”
On Ross Avenue north of downtown Dallas, Dilla Coffee now welcomes guests with a curved cool granite counter, while roasted coffees are displayed in black canisters with gold trim. The shop offers tastings with modern pourover and drip methods, plus occasional demonstrations of the traditional Ethiopian buna ceremony. The owners are currently awaiting the arrival of an espresso machine.
The retail space looks into a tight production area, where a Turkish-made, 15-kilo R&R roaster and a bulk commercial grinder provide pops of bright red. Tan and white tile on the walls up front give way to dark brick in the back that mirrors the black-and-white tile of the bar.
“It’s all color-coordinated,” Hailu, the younger owner, told DCN. “It’s like a coffee crema color [up front]. So as people enter it looks like they’re on the inside of a coffee cup. The roaster can be seen from the front, all the product is lined up on shelving by the roaster, and the jebenas are set up by the beans so you can see the old style pots.”
Degefu, an electrical engineer by trade, takes the lead on roasting coffees. Sima, a fashion designer, ran a cleaning and tailoring business around the corner from the Dilla location for more than 20 years.
Degefu told Daily Coffee News that he and Sima, representing the third generation in a coffee-producing family, initially sought to broaden their horizons beyond agriculture when they left Ethiopia for the United States in 1996. Thus, their creation of Dilla Coffee in 2021 represented a return to their deep roots in coffee.
The brothers have spent the past two years ironing out logistics to get the Ethiopian coffees into the new shop. They’ve already placed an order for a 30-kilo R&R machine, which is scheduled for delivery in Dallas next year, by which time the brothers hope to have a larger production facility.
An additional 30-kilo R&R machine is on its way to Yirgacheffe, where the extended family will soon begin roasting their own coffees, following profiles created in Dallas, for domestic consumers.
The farm in Yirgacheffe grows a mixture of “heirloom” varieties, and exports its natural-process green coffees to other buyers around the world. Dilla focuses on the farm’s washed-process coffees. Meanwhile, the partners are developing another family farm in Keffa that will be larger and will include Gesha and other prized arabica varieties.
Meanwhile, Dilla is working to build relationships with producers throughout Ethiopia, with an eye towards long-term relationships and the development of quality.
“We don’t only want to stick to our own. We want to explore all the other different regions in Ethiopia,” said Hailu. “Part of the whole mission is to invest in those farms. So as we’re making their farming practices better, we’re also bringing in more unique and rare coffees from Ethiopia.”