We began purchasing coffee from the cooperatives in the southern townships of the Gedeb woreda, or district, of the Gedeo zone (where Yirgacheffe town–the area’s most recognizable name, sits) a few years back. Initially, it was not a conscious decision. Each year we cup many, many Ethiopia lots–it’s probably our favorite origin–and over the course of a few seasons we came to realize that the Ethiopian coffees we liked best were often from this small pocket of what is usually just referred to as “Yirgacheffe.” In particular, we came to be impressed by coffees from the Worka cooperative, a subgroup of the massive Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU). The group’s container lots were always very good, with the best washed coffees exhibiting flavors akin to the syrup from canned peaches, along with herbals that resembled fresh thyme. The naturals often followed suit, highlighting tropical and purple fruit flavors, rather than the more common red berry profile that usually characterize dry-processing.
Enter Royal Coffee in California. Five or six years ago they began a program with the Worka cooperative, in which model coffee producers would have their crop kept separate. Great lots would be rewarded with aggressive quality premiums, and the farmers themselves would serve as examples for their neighbors in agronomy and best practices, further driving quality and access to increased prices across the board.
Abera Degela is a participant in this program, and his coffee this year was one of the better naturals we encountered. It is not a super jammy, wildly fruity cup. Instead, it is clean and juicy, with flavors that run the fruit cup gamut, but tend towards orange tropicals and light blute/purple fruits, instead of heavy reds. It’s the kind of naturally-processed coffee that you can drink all day long.
Producer: Abera Degela
Elevation: 1900-2000 MASL
Varietal: native landrace
Process: natural process, shade dried on raised beds