Guji coffee has been receiving a lot of attention from the specialty coffee world in the past several years, and for good reason. Many privately owned washing stations have sprung up recently, in an area that has traditionally processed coffee using a natural (dry) method. The quality of these washed coffees can be outstanding, which isn’t surprising considering the area’s close proximity to Yirgacheffe. “Close” is relative in terms of travel in Ethiopia where 100 km can mean a 10 hour drive, silver lining being the incredible variety of terrain and culture relatively short distances.
Guji is an administrative zone of the Oromia region of Ethiopia, which gained political definition in 2002. Prior to that year, the Guji territory (named for the Guji tribe of the Oromo people) was a part of the Borena zone. Guji Zone shares a border with the Southern Nations, Nationalities & People’s Region (SNNPR,) which includes Gedeo Zone (where Yirgacheffe is located) and Sidama Zone.
In our experience, few exporting companies can claim to specialize in coffees from Guji Zone. The staff of Sibu Coffee Exporter PLC have been working extensively with Guji farmers in various capacities for over 20 years. In fact the founders of Sibu Coffee were instrumental in establishing some of the first washing stations in the area (technically Borena Zone at the time) under the umbrella of the expansive Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. To improve market access for their farmers, Sibu Coffee Exporter began operations in 2014, shipping primarily Guji coffees to importers and roasters around the world. Sibu Coffee operates multiple washing stations in Guji Zone, one of which is located in the kebele (village) of Guracho in the western Kercha district. Atlas has been working with washed and natural-process coffees from Guracho WS since 2015 and both are perennial favorites on our offer lists.
In addition to their commercial activities in and around Guracho kebele, Sibu Coffee is actively invested in community development projects. The Guracho Primary School is located just a kilometer from Sibu’s washing station and many of Sibu’s farmers have children in attendance. While visiting in early 2018 we saw the early stages of a renovation of the school’s main buildings, funded entirely by Sibu Coffee. Two visits later in November 2019 the school was transformed with new roofing, fresh plaster with paint and new chairs and tables. In early 2019 Sibu Coffee also financed two shipping containers of school supplies including notebooks, pencils and basic textbooks. What’s more, Sibu contributed funds to repair and expand a latrine for the school including a separate fresh water supply for the community.
Despite being located near to Yirgacheffe (as the crow flies,) we’ve seen a huge diversity of coffee profiles from Guracho, ranging from the sweet lemon candy and floral tea you might expect from the area, to heavy green melon, peach and rose flavors. The natural process Guracho coffees are also spectacular, with both “Grade 3” and “Grade 1” preparations appearing on our offer list. Grade 3 Naturals are generally a good option for bargain hunters looking for classic citrus and blueberry fruit character balanced by weighty butterscotch and sweet pastry. Grade 1 Naturals typically require additional labor-intensive drying and cherry sorting practices, resulting in more distinct, marmalade fruit flavors with white wine acidity and perfumed aromatics.