Nano Challa’s quality and membership have ballooned in tandem with one another in the past fifteen years, from as few as 25 farmer members from Agaro Town at its founding to over 500 active members today, of which 92 are women, and who represent more than 4,000 coffee-dependent family members. The cooperative was among the first in Ethiopia to invest in resource-efficient fully washed processing back in the late aughts, which quickly put Nano Challa on the map and in the minds for buyers everywhere, many of whom had not experienced top quality coffees from outside the more famous southern zones.
The cooperative sits southwest of the city of Jimma in the more forested district of Gera, which, like much of coffee-growing Ethiopia, is a broad, sloping plateau of indescribable fertility and drastically high elevations. Gera is locally known for both snappy coffees with sweet and delicate fruit flavors, as well as its “white” honey, foraged by bees from coffee and forest blossoms, which itself is an utter sensory delight.
Nano Challa is a member cooperative of what is now one of the best-known cooperative unions in the country: the Kata Muduga Multi-Purpose Farmers Cooperative Union. The union’s general manager is a trained agronomist previously employed as a quality and operations advisor with the Technoserve Coffee Initiative, the development project that is largely credited with helping the greater Jimma region reach its full coffee market potential. Kata Muduga is a union of few cooperatives: Duromina, Yukro, Yachi Kachise, and Nano Challa. This pales in comparison to union memberships like those of Sidama (53 primary coops) or Yirgacheffe (28 primary coops), but like a truly boutique brand, Kata Muduga coffees have been considered among the best in the country for ten years, and at this point their reputations alone, paired with their relative scarcity in volume, stoke intense possessiveness among cuppers.
Nano Challa is Organic and Rain Forest Alliance certified, and continues to expand its reach, having invested 1.5 million birr (about $44,000 US) to re-build five kilometers of local roads, as well as construction of a local primary school for member families.