The district of Abaya runs along the western limit of Gedeo Zone, Ethiopia’s narrow southern region teeming with dense farming communities and hyper-competitive processors known as “Yirgacheffe” after Yirga Chefe, its most famous district for coffee. Abaya district, along with the adjacent Gelana district, while technically outside of Gedeo Zone and a part of the Oromia region, both have a few corners that cross the border into Gedeo. Naturally, coffees from here often share the exact terroir as Gedeo, so many coffees processed in Abaya and Gelana are classified as “Yirgacheffe” regardless of their origin just over the border. (Indeed, many farmers contributing cherry to processing sites in Gelana and Abaya districts do live and farm in Gedeo zone, which further assimilates the two areas.)
Sibu Coffee Exporter PLC’s processing site is in Bukissa town, in the southern part of Abaya district, only a few kilometers from both the town of Yirga Chefe itself and the border with Gelana. Sibu’s station here, known simply as the Gelana Abaya washing station, is managed by Keder Hassen Aredo. Keder is 45 with 9 children and inherited much of his processing knowledge from his father. At 20 years old Keder began working for himself, and has been buying and processing coffee ever since. The Gelana Abaya washing station was established in 2019 and is moving quickly. It already buys coffee from 1200 individual farmer families and is distributing exercise books, computers and sanitation materials to schools in the area.
Fully washed coffee at Gelana Abaya is inspected upon delivery and then depulped and fermented for 24 hours under water. Once fermentation is complete, parchment is scrubbed clean and transported to raised beds to dry in the sun. Coffee dries very quickly in this area, requiring only a few days of sun exposure to complete the process. Once parchment is fully dried it is stored in sacks on site for extra conditioning. This is particularly important as short drying periods tend to result in uneven moisture distribution and higher water activity, and a long rest allows the remaining moisture to balance and bond better within the seed.
Sibu Coffee is working toward building an organic coffee estate for centralized production. This would allow them to produce coffee themselves from start to finish, as well as continue to process coffee from surrounding smallholders. Doing so would generally have a larger impact in their area, not only as a processor but also as a large employer and large scale example of best practices.