The district of Gedeb takes up the south-eastern corner of Ethiopia’s Gedeo Zone—a narrow section of plateau dense with savvy farmers whose coffee is known as “Yirgacheffe”, after the zone’s most famous district. Gedeb, however, is a terroir, history, and community all its own that merits unique designation in our eyes. The region is a thriving market landscape that links commerce between the Guji and Gedeo Zones, and contains an expansive network of processing stations who often buy cherry from across zone borders.
Processors across Gedeb (and we would agree) would argue their coffee profiles are not exactly Yirgacheffe, but something of their own. Cup profiles, in many cases produced closer to Guji than the rest of Yirgacheffe, are often the most explosive 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. Communities around Gedeb reach some of the highest growing elevations for coffee in the world and have a long history of arabica preservation and genetic diversity.
Worka-Sakaro is a municipality located in northeast Gedeb close to the Guji border. It is a remote but impressively industrious area for coffee production. Of the 1300 hectares that comprise the area, over half of them are planted with coffee. Up to only a few years ago when coffee exports were tightly regulated and allowed limited channels, the vast majority of coffee grown in this area was either processed and exported by the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU), consolidated under the wide-reaching Worka Cooperative, or sold anonymously through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX). Today, however, in addition to the Worka Cooperative splitting into multiple smaller coops, there are increasing numbers of single farm owners and independent companies who are processing and exporting direct. It’s an exciting time to be buying in Gedeb, where we expect to see new layers of coffee continuously unfold as its local industry accelerates.
Currently there are two private washing stations in Worka-Sakaro, one of which is Wuri, whose name in the Gedeo language translates to “high altitude”. The station was originally constructed in 2012 and today is owned by Ranger Industry & Trading PLC. Wuri, aside from producing floral and syrupy naturals, is also focused on achieving a diversity of processing and milling standards in order to iterate on local traditions and expand expectations of coffees from this area. Our “Premium Preparation” lots, while carefully sundried in a single layer like a typical Ethiopia natural, are treated to additional sorting at the dry mill, including extra passes in the color sorter and longer, slower hand-removal of imperfections. The extra work definitely shows in the cup.
Private processors like Wuri are a thing to behold. It’s a tough business being a private processor in Gedeo, as the sheer density of competition among washing stations tends to push cherry prices as high as double throughout a single harvest, and privates often don’t have the backing of a larger union to secure financing, regulate cherry prices, or bring export costs down with centralized milling and marketing. Successful private washing stations like Wuri, then, need to be not only standout quality processors to stay afloat; they must also be excellent business developers with connections and community standing, in order to continue winning the business of farmers and buyers alike, and stay afloat for the long term.