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. About yen years ago they began a program with the Worka cooperative, in which model coffee producers would have their harvest 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. Bedhatu Jebicho was one of the first farmers involved with the project, and her coffees have consistently been excellent, even as her volumes have increased.
Over the last few years she earned enough money with quality premiums to start her own exporting company with her sons, and changes made to Ethiopia’s coffee exchange now allow her to sell her coffee directly to Royal.
In the cup, we find what we would characterize as a classic Ethiopian natural. It’s got plenty of fruit, but it’s not pulp-driven flavor. We find soft milk chocolate, some tropicals (think papaya, banana and mango), dark berries, purple florals and something perfumed along the lines of sandalwood.
Producer: Bedhatu Jebicho
Elevation: 1700-1900 MASL
Varietal: native landrace
Process: natural process, shade dried on raised beds