Farm: Various small farms
Altitude: 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level
Owner: various smallholder farmers
Town / City: Danbi Uddo,Gigesa
Overall: Violets, lemongrass, pink guava, Nectarine
Guji Gigesa Grade 1 - Ethiopia
For many years, Mercanta has been telling you the same old Ethiopia story:
In 2008 Ethiopia began the centralization of all coffee exports through the newly established Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX). This eliminated most roasters’ and importers’ ability to provide accurate information of the precise traceability of coffees. Until December of that same year, growers could also sell direct to export markets, but this was subsequently reigned in. Since that time, the difficulty of determining precise provenance in Ethiopia – a corner stone of specialty coffee – has been a tremendous frustration to buyers in consuming markets.
As of the end of the 2017 harvest season, around 90 percent of coffees (including this Guji lot) continued to move through the ECX, where they were cupped according to profile then graded and marked generically for export. G1 lots, such as this one, are the highest grade and are in limited supply. When purchased through the ECX, however, the only traceability information that has been given even to these highly sought after lots is the area code of production, such as ‘Sidamo’ or ‘Yirgacheffe’, which are coffee producing regions, or Kochere, Yirgacheffe, which denotes that this coffee comes, generally, from the town of Kochere and its surrounds in the Yirgacheffe producing region.
As of the end of the 2017 harvest season, only around 10 to 13 percent of coffee grown was eligible to be purchased ‘directly’ through cooperatives or plantations – a percentage that had remained relatively stable since the founding of the ECX. All of the Ethiopian coffees that we have traditionally purchased at Mercanta were selected on the basis of their exceptional cup profile first and foremost. This remains our guiding principle in Ethiopia and in all origins where we source coffees. But despite our equal commitment to traceablity, we have abided always by the standards and laws set out by the originating countries (and will always operate 100% within these).
HOWEVER! ALL OF THIS MAY BE ABOUT TO CHANGE.
As of end of March 2017, a bill has been drafted by the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Development and Marketing Authority that will entirely overhaul the way that Ethiopian coffee is marketed and sold. The aim is to limit black market dealings, to demand higher prices and to enable Ethiopian producers to share in a greater piece of the pie. As an added bonus, it will hopefully make it easier and entirely legal to get traceability on the coffees that buyers purchase.
In a nutshell, the new system proposes that any exporter with a valid license will be allowed to sell directly to buyers without placing the coffee on the ECX first. There is a slight caveat – the parchment coffee will have to be sold within three days of arriving at the processing plant in Addis. If it is still unsold after three days (which is quite likely), it must be sold through the ECX: BUT with its traceability info intact rather than being deleted. Additionally, it is proposed that oversees companies will be able to plant and sell coffee.
Experts have commented that the reforms will actually create a system very like Ethiopia’s before the 2008 changes. Quoted in the financial times, Arkebe Oqubay, the government minister overseeing the reform, said he expects Ethiopia’s annual coffee exports to “soar”. (see https://www.ft.com/content/020bc846-393a-11e7-821a-6027b8a20f23)
The new system is being trialed now (the end of the 2017 harvest season), and it is almost certain that tweaks will be made. Hopefully, however, this time next year you will have in your hands a full story on the delicious coffee you are about to roast. Watch this space!
About the Guji region:
Guji is one of the zones of the Oromia Region of Ethiopia and is named after a tribe of the Oromo people. Guji is bordered on the south by Borena, on the west by the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale and on the east by the Somali Region. The highest point in the zone is Mount Dara Tiniro. Cities and major include its administrative center, Negele. The Guji Zone was created in September 2002, when the upland woredas (administrative regions) of the Borena Zone were split apart to create it.
Like Yirgacheffe, coffees from the Guji area were previously categorised together with coffees from Sidamo (a very wide geographical classification encompassing much of central-south Ethopia). However Guji coffees are quite distinct from either Yirgacheffe or Sidamo coffee. Located in the southern portion of Sidamo the people of Guji have a long tradition of coffee cultivation. They are called the Oromo people and the hills and landscape allow for particular cultivars to develop in this region.