Cup Profile:Dark Chocolate, English Breakfast Tea, Vanilla
We are very pleased to offer this beautiful, certified organic coffee from fourth generation producer, Akilu Kassa and his son, Biniam Aklilu Kassa. At nearly 6,500 feet elevation in the Oromia Region and West Guji Zone, Akilu produces Typica and other local heirloom varieties (one aptly named simply “Guji”) under the protection of natural shade trees that include enset (false banana), bamboo, avocado and lastly wanza, which is a multi-purpose, indigenous tree whose leaves are used as fertilizer and wood for fuel, tools and furniture. This coffee is also C.A.F.E. certified as being sustainably grown and processed, a ranking achieved through the evaluation of economic, social and environmental aspects of the coffee production. In the cup you’ll find a distinct brightness and a layering of notes of lemonade, pink lady apple, coffee flower, dried eucalyptus, lemon balm and english breakfast tea.
Akilu Kassa and his son, Biniam are the chief operators and proud owners of the Bedessa wash station which draws its water from the nearby stream named “Dhadhatu”. Akilu employs 170-250 seasonal workers and a full-time staff of 12, including general manager, Nigusse Jio, assistant manager, Tefera, purchaser, Jemal Kilkilo, industry manager, Tadele Gosaye, accountant, Tamirat Negash, and mechanic, Chuchu Dheko. Bedessa pays a premium for red, ripened coffee cherries that are picked by local small farm holders and their families. For generations these families have grown and picked from their own ‘back-yard’ plots, ranging 1-4 acres in size. Incredibly, coffee here flourishes in the wild as a sustainable cash crop along with a variety of mango and banana. Once the coffee cherries are pulped and washed, they’re fermented for between 16-48 hours (depending on temperature, cloud cover, etc) and then laid out to sun dry on drying tables where they’re stirred regularly and covered when the sun is hottest, from noon to 3:00PM.
The Kassa family history with coffee runs deep; a few decades ago his grandfather received a 1,200 acre land grant in Guji during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. Aklilu’s father made Guji history in 1995 by founding the very first privately-owned washing station, following many years working as a cherry collections agent. This first wash station by the name of Kassa Chirressa was where Aklilu, then 28, began working for his father, who still operates the mill.
“At that time” recalls Akilu, “Guji along with Yirgacheffe, Kochere, and dozens of other now-distinct districts were known as Sidama coffee. All my brothers and sisters worked at the washing station with me. Every year new challenges appeared with metronomic regularity: without roads, the workers had to resort to transporting coffee on the backs of mules.” Over 4-5 years, the siblings and the staff at Kassa Chirressa & Hegar Mariam (Aklilu’s first wash station) physically brought rocks from various parts of Guji to build their own road. Eventually Akilu and his staff were able to bring trucks to the remote wash stations to transport cherries to warehouses without risking the coffee’s integrity. As an aside, Hegar Mariam is 186 rough-and-tumble miles from Kenya’s northern border.
The Guji Zone of Southern Ethiopia borders the lush zones of Sidama and West Arsi to the north, the Bale Zone to the east, and the famous Gedeo Zone to the West. Given their closeness, Guji and Gedeo share many crossover characteristics in coffee processing and production, resulting in similar bright, sparkly coffees with heavy floral notes and an overall delicacy. Coffee production in these zones (and throughout the majority of Ethiopia) is generally achieved by small farm holders and cooperatives and not single estate owners.