Ethiopia coffees, when made well, can be mind-alteringly complex and overwhelmingly fragrant. They taste separate from all other countries, and never convincingly interchangeable with any other washed or sun dried arabica on Earth. From Ethiopia’s landscape comes some of the best-known descriptors in the coffee world that over time have come to indicate Ethiopia unmistakably (blueberry, jasmine, bergamot) and are considered world wide benchmarks of flavor.
Gedeb is a bustling district in the southeastern corner of Gedeo Zone (also known as Yirgacheffe), with a terroir and identity all its own. The expansive and diverse farming communities here put out washed coffees snappy with layered acids, fruit syrup flavors, and lemonade-like clarity. Naturals in particular are stunningly jammy, remaining perfume-like for months after arrival. Processing networks in Gedeb include unionized coops and independent washing stations, but also more and more single farmers with export permissions and ambitious quality goals, who are increasing their returns and demanding feedback.
Guji’s processing and estate-building capacity is expanding constantly, with some of the most progressive conservationist and social impact plans in the country. The best profiles all seem to contain a little of every one of Ethiopia’s major terroirs in almost perfect harmony: mouthwatering lactic acid, punchy berries and fleshy tropical fruits, brisk and delicate florals, and juicy cup structures. Which is understandable considering the developing landscape includes regional coffee cultivars brought from throughout Ethiopia’s southern and western areas.
The Gedeo Zone in southern Ethiopia is a narrow section of highland plateau dense with savvy farmers and fiercely competitive processors, who together make up one of the world’s most distinctive terroirs in coffee history. Kochere is one of Gedeo Zone’s seven districts, home to many successful private washing stations situated in famous micro-terroirs like Chelelektu, whose coffee is often reminiscent of black tea and candied ginger.
There is nothing like the first fresh Sidama coffees of the year: herbaceous and juicy, cocktail-like with grilled stone fruit, honey, tarragon, mouthwatering tea-like aftertaste, and zesty textures. It is common for washed fermentation to undergo multiple water refills in the tank, during which the parchment brightens and the last hints of the coffee fruit itself are scrubbed away, leaving a range of enzymatic flavors and sugary sweetness intact.
“Yirgacheffe” is a metonym for Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone, made famous by the coffee from the zone’s Yirga Chefe district, where some of Ethiopia’s first commercial washed coffees were established. There is more terroir diversity here than many realize. Coffees that are close neighbors can display a range of jasmine, yuzu, Thai basil, blueberry, date, and nectarine. Some of Royal’s oldest and most direct producer relationships are here, including specific coops in Kochere and single farmers from the Worka Sakaro community.