What the Guji?
WRITTEN BY Coffee Supreme
07 January 2019

Fans of our longstanding Ethiopia, Sede will have noticed that it is no longer on the menu. This season we found that a coffee from the Guji region was hitting the spot when we were selecting a replacement for our most popular single origin. As we say goodbye to an old favourite, the Ethiopia Sede, we get to introduce a new friend, the Ethiopia Guji. The Guji makes its way onto the menu as our staple Ethiopian coffee and just like the Sede, it's available in both Espresso and Filter roasts.

This means we currently have three Gujis on the menu. Two are the same green coffee, sourced from smallholder farmers around Guji, with different roast profiles - filter and espresso. The other is the Guji, West Arsi Bulga.

The coffees that we are describing simply as 'Guji' replace our longstanding 'Sede' (itself a sub-region of Yirgacheffe). We have secured a consistent supply of this coffee so you will see it on the menu for a good amount of time. If you loved our Sede, then the Guji is the coffee for you. And if you love it so much you want it to arrive on your doorstep all the time, it's also available on our coffee subscription service too. The Guji, West Arsi Bulga, on the other hand, is in much more limited supply. If you are keen to try it or, like many of us, it's become a favourite best you purchase some soon before it sells out!

So what is this Guji region? And how are the coffees different from one another?

Formed in 2002, Guji had been considered a southern sub-region of the much larger Sidamo region and coffee from there had previously just been sold as 'Sidamo'. There has been a growing consensus over the years that Guji possessed something distinct and unique. Farmers from this region have lobbied for years to have Guji recognized as a separate region from Sidamo and this finally gained some traction.

If you're wondering what all the geographical information refers to in the naming of Ethiopia, Guji, West Arsi, Bulga it breaks down like this...
Country: Ethiopia
Sub-region: Guji
Zone: West Arsi
Town: Bulga

The wet mill that the coffee comes from is simply named after the town - Bulga. It gives us great please to be able to offer coffees from such a specific and narrow geographical area.

The tricky appellations of Ethiopia

Known as the cradle of coffee, Ethiopia is the oldest and still one of the most prominent global producing countries in the world. Despite often being wildly grown by smallholder farmers, Ethiopia produces some of the most elegant and diverse tasting coffees found anywhere and the names Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harrar have become synonymous with Ethiopian coffee.

In 2004, the Ethiopian government launched the Ethiopian Coffee Trademarking and Licensing Initiative. The aim was to strengthen the protection of genuine Ethiopian coffee from counterfeit coffee (yes, that’s a thing). Eventually, three regions gained legal protection - Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and Harrar. Since then the government has gone on to develop the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). It was launched in 2008 with the aim to help centralize the country’s coffee trade and capture some traceability of Ethiopia’s coffee growing regions, which encompass over five million smallholder farmers. While its intentions were good, it is a somewhat inflexible system that did not allow for much traceability of coffee passing through the system, as it was more geared towards large commodity focused traders and exporters.

Once a coffee is received into the ECX its quality is evaluated and it is given a grade and broad geographic designation, or appellation, such as Sidamo, Harrar or Yirgacheffe but that is as much detail that it allows for. Only a small amount of coffee has been allowed to be sold outside of the ECX as highly differentiated lots. Lots with unique regional characteristics that can be traced to exact locations and farmers names. A mere 10% of production had this level of traceability. Consequently, demand has always outstripped supply as these are the types of coffee all speciality roasters are searching for. So this meant for the other 90% of coffee passing through the ECX that irrespective of whether it was one of the small prized lots or a large bulk lot they were treated the same and often blended together into larger region specific lots.

However last year the government relaxed the rules a little around who was allowed to export coffee directly and this meant that much more of these small prized and distinctive lots became available. And Coffee Supreme is happy to be able to have some on offer!

Ethiopia Triple Release

The Guji, West Arsi, Bulga is the first of our Ethiopia Triple Release, part of our Limited filter offer, that we are featuring this year. The Ethiopia Triple Release gives you greater specificity of region with distinctive and unique profiles.

Following the West Arsi, Bulga we have a coffee from Messele Haile, a farmer from the Adame ward in the Yirgacheffe region. Then to finish things off we are back to Guji with a coffee from Abdu Keder. Abdu is a farmer and owner of the Keder washing station in the Shakiso district of southern Guji.

These coffees will be rolled out as the preceding coffee is consumed so get drinking if you're impatient to try the next offer. As soon as the West Arsi, Bulga is all roasted we will be releasing Messele Haile's coffee.

Shop the full range of coffees here and listen to the Spotify Playlist that accompanies the Triple Release.

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