Position Future Shipment
Ageze Balcha Begna
Local heirloom cultivars
Gedeb district, Gedeo zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, Ethiopia
Full natural and dried on raised beds
November - January
Gedeo zone is a dense and competitive highland zone in southern Ethiopia also known as “Yirgacheffe”, after its most famous central district. The zone has a history of beguilingly fragrant and effusive coffees, both fully washed (this was the first area of Ethiopia to pulp and ferment coffee) and naturals. Gedeb is one of 8 districts that makes up Gedeo, but it has a terroir, history, and community all its own that merits unique designation in our eyes. The municipality of Gedeb itself is a is a bustling outpost that links commerce between the Guji and Gedeo Zones. It contains an expansive network of processing stations who buy cherry from across zone borders. Coffee producers here would argue (and we would agree) their coffee profiles are not exactly Yirgacheffe, or Guji, but something of their own. The communities surrounding Gedeb reach some of the highest growing elevations for coffee in the world and are a truly enchanting part of the local landscape. Coffees from this area, much closer to the Guji Zone than the rest of Yirgacheffe, can be some the more explosive cup profiles we see from anywhere in Ethiopia. Naturals tend to have perfume-like volatiles, and fully washed lots are often sparklingly clean and fruit candy-like in structure.
Ageze Balcha Begna’s coffee was a national jury selection at this year’s Cup of Excellence (COE) competition. Ageze is a 68-year-old farmer with 9 children and 42 years of coffee-growing experience. He has been surrounded by coffee since childhood, growing up in a family that depended on it for their livelihood, and now overseeing a family of his own supported by the trade. Ageze’s farm is 2.72 hectares in size and 100% planted with coffee. This natural process microlot was handpicked and dried on raised beds on Ageze’s own property, carefully supervised and sorted specifically for the COE competition.
The world’s first Cup of Excellence competition took place in Brazil in 1999 and quickly became known as the world’s best discovery mechanism for quality. Each competition is origin-specific and involves multiple national selection rounds, a final competition with an international judging panel, and an online auction for the top 30 high-scoring submissions. All submissions are cupped blind throughout the entire competition, leaving judges only the cup quality to assess, and each submission is cupped up to five times. Winning producers are often fabulously rewarded with record-setting prices for their coffee, not to mention lifelong status for such an achievement. The competition has revealed countless innovative processing styles, rare cultivars, and obscure producing areas to the rest of the world for the first time.
Ethiopia is of course well-known for having an incredibly high status quo for quality. Ironically, due to lack of sponsorship and an established single-farmer marketplace, the COE has only been held here twice. Royal has been a longtime supporter of maximum traceability in Ethiopia via whatever tools are available. This year we are buying and importing the entire national selection round ourselves. The enthusiasm of Ethiopia’s gifted smallholders means there are a lot of excellent coffees to be appreciated beyond the competition’s top 30 that go to auction. In the COE format small growers typically submit fully processed and dried but un-milled lots of coffee, which are then centrally milled and stored during the auction’s multi-week procession. All national jury selects were purchased by Royal with a flat farmgate price of $4.50 per pound of green coffee directly to the farmers.