The climb from the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, through Shashamene and past Awasa is gradual, and coffee trees slowly increase in frequency, large, lanky, and dusty by the roadside, many so tall they lean on the roofs of houses for support. Coffees here are earlier than in the far south, delicate, and citric. Sidama has one of the most robust cooperative unions in the country with 53 member cooperatives, as well as a thriving industry of independent washing stations. Elilichew is one such independent, managed by Abel Tsegaye and servicing only 86 local farmers.
Bensa district is in Sidama’s eastern edge close to the Harenna Forest preserve and is a high-elevation area, even for Sidama, with farms up to 2200 meters. There are a number of independent processors working in the Bensa district and Elilichew is one of them. Elilichew is owned by G. Global Coffee, who oversees export logistics. G. Global also maintains an equity-based charity as part of its business model, called Project Zaakaa, where 2.5% of the total company assets are granted for local infrastructure projects and labor.
Fresh-picked cherry is delivered daily to Elilichew where it is sorted on arrival, depulped, and fermented. Once fermentation is complete the coffee is washed clean and moved to raised beds to dry, where it is turned every 2-3 hours for the first few days to encourage equal outer drying. After this first drying stage the coffee is rotated less often and continues drying until optimal moisture is reached, at which point the dry parchment is transported to a local ware house to condition for 21 days before being trucked to Addis Ababa, where it is dry-milled for export.