Grown in the village of Hangadhi, in fertile and biodiverse forest land.
The Guji Highlands group
Hangadhi is our first natural Ethiopian of the season, and comes to you courtesy of the Guji Highlands group, located just outside the town of Shakiso, in the Guji region. Lying 500 km south of Addis Ababa and just south-east of the Yirgacheffe region, this is an area of incredibly high elevation, with coffee grown at altitudes reaching 2300 masl. Guji Highlands started in 2012 with their own farm, only producing naturally processed coffees from their fertile forest land.
Fast forward 7 years, and they have built a wet mill to produce washed coffees, and now support groups of smallholders around their own farm, including the 30 farmers from the nearby village of Hangadhi who grew this lot. Guji Highlands support them with advice all the way from seedlings to harvest, ensuring the highest possible level of coffee quality. Another big contributor to the quality seen here is the forest coffee growing system, where coffee trees are grown in areas of wild forest leased from the government, with stipulations that trees are not to be cut, and wild animals are not to be killed. Coffee is also grown next to food crops, such as beans, cabbage and ‘false banana’, an important local food crop. This leads to a high level of natural biodiversity, and fertile soils due to hundreds of years of organic materials decomposing on the forest floor.
All of Guji Highlands’ coffees are certified organic due to this high level of natural fertility. The coffees are also processed very carefully, with naturals turned often and moisture content measured throughout the process. After approximately 21 days the coffee has reached 11% moisture content and is ready for storage. This level of care throughout the production process translates into a very high level of quality in the cup, with floral jasmine aromas and clear notes of fresh strawberry backed up by a long chocolatey finish.
A crisp citrus acidity and floral aromatics lift the round fruit profile of this lot.
Coffee growing in Ethiopia
Part of the reason Ethiopian coffees are so unique is the high level of biodiversity when compared to modern coffee production in most of the rest of the world. This is partly due to the wild forest system, and partly down to the genetic diversity of the coffee plants themselves. There are thousands of so far uncategorised ‘heirloom’ varieties growing in Ethiopia; all descended from wild cross pollination between species derived from the original Arabica trees. This biodiversity leads to hardier coffee plants, which don’t need to be artificially fertilised. This means that 95% of coffee production in Ethiopia is organic, although most small farmers and mills can’t afford to pay for certification, so can’t label their coffee as such. The absence of monoculture in the Ethiopian coffee lands also means plants are much less susceptible to the decimating effects of diseases such as leaf rust that have ripped through other producing countries.
The natural, or dry process, is the traditional process, going back generations. When accomplished in a controlled and careful manner, dry processed coffees can produce flavour experiences not found in wet processed coffees, deep fruits and florals, normally with heavier mouthfeel and lower acidity. The cherries are first sorted, and then laid out on in thin layers (2-6 cm) on raised drying beds. These are almost always used for high quality naturals, as they aid airflow around the coffee as it dries, enabling more even drying.
It is very important that coffees are sorted very carefully early on in the drying process, as all of the cherries quickly turn dark brown, making it impossible to separate under and overripe cherries. The cherries are turned frequently to avoid mold formation or over-fermentation, until they reach a moisture content of below 20%, and the outer cherry layer shrinks and blackens. This process takes between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on weather conditions.