Ethiopia Heirloom Varieties
Natural Process, 18-21 Day Drying on Raised Beds
November 2017 - January 2018
Sawana Farmer Group
In the town of Shakiso, located in the Guji zone of Ethiopia, smallholder farmers delivery freshly picked, red cherries to the Gede collection site. With a long history of coffee cultivation, these harvests feature a stunning diversity of Ethiopian heirloom varieties, offering us a deep sense of heritage and an unmistakable terroir.
We first visited Guji in 2014, when our green buyer, Alex, (then a 21-year-old intern) made the 40-hour trip from Wisconsin to Ethiopia. Beginning on a 747 on O'Hare's tarmac, Alex's journey took him on a nesting doll succession of transportation––from city bus to backroads van––until he finally rolled into Shakiso, jammed alongside livestock and locals in a 15-person passenger van. While the journey itself was overwhelming, what was truly remarkable was the quality of the coffees we tasted and dedication of the growers we met.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and it is said that the Harenna forest is one of the first places wild coffee seeds were harvested for cultivation. Shakiso is located just beyond this storied forest, accounting for the incredible diversity of heirloom coffee grown in this community. The growers of Shakiso have spent their lives maintaining these varieties and tending to some of the world's oldest coffee trees––harvesting and processing their coffee in a way that honors the rich tradition of Ethiopian coffee farming.
This coffee is naturally processed, meaning that the coffee cherry is left on the seed as it dries over the course of three weeks on a raised bed. This process imparts a distinct coffee fruit flavor to the bean, one which is entirely unique to this region. Over the years, we've continued to be impressed by natural processed coffees from the Guji zone and this year's harvest from Shakiso is no exception. A nuanced, fruit-forward cup, this one is not to be missed.
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