Jigesa Natural

  • Country
    Ethiopia
  • Traditional Coffee Region
    Sidama
  • Political Region
    Oromia
  • Political Zone
    Guji
  • Woreda
    Shakisso
  • Kebele
    Dembi Udo
  • Washing Station
    Jigesa
  • Elevation
    1,900-2,000m above sea level
  • Variety
    JARC 74110
  • Processing
    Natural
  • Farmers
    850 independent producers
  • Washing Station Owner
    Faysel A. Yonis

Fruit forward and juicy, with great intensity and a long, perfumed finish. Concord grape, raspberry, cherry and custard apple.

Jigesa (pronounced “Jee-gee-sa”) is a privately-owned washing station that is located in the Shakisso woreda (administrative district) in Ethiopia’s Guji zone. It is named after the kebele (local village) of Jigesa. The washing station is one of ten owned and managed by Testi Coffee, a family-owned company founded by Mr Faysel A. Yonis. Jigesa is one of their newer washing stations, purchased in 2014, and produces exceptional washed and natural processed lots.

The washing station sits at 1,945m above sea level and is managed by Jemal Abdulrahman. During harvest, freshly picked coffee cherry is delivered daily to Jigesa by around 850 independent coffee growers from the nearby kebele of Dembi Udo. The majority of these families farm organically on tiny plots of land, which average just 2–5 hectares in size. Coffee is their main cash crop and grows alongside food crops of corn, grain and bananas, under the shade of native Birbira, Wanza, and Acacia trees. The average elevation of the farms in this region is very high – around 1,800–1,950m above sea level – and this, combined region’s cool temperatures (which range between 15-20°C) is ideal for the slow ripening of coffee cherries, leading to denser beans and a sweeter, more complex cup profile.

This coffee lot was produced as part of Testi’s quality improvement initiative, Premium Cherry Selection (PCS). Launched in 2018, the Premium Cherry Selection program ensures that best practices are used for growing, harvesting and processing the coffee cherry. Through the program, Testi pay a premium to farmers who pick and deliver only the ripest cherries from their farms. Coffees produced as part of the program represent the highest quality and cleanest cup profile available from the washing station and wider region. Head here to learn more about Testi Coffee’s work in Ethiopia.

ABOUT THE GUJI ZONE

The Guji zone was established as a unique production area in 2002. It is located in the southern portion of the political region of Oromia and is named after the Oromo people: a tribe with a long, proud history in coffee production.

Prior to 2002, coffees from Guji were sold under the broader classification of Sidama, a huge producing region covering much of central-south Ethiopia. Today, coffees from Guji are classified separately and are recognised worldwide for their unique and distinctive cup profile. This distinctiveness is driven by the unique combination of elements in this production area, including high elevations, rich, fertile soil, and exceptional heirloom varieties. Most communities in the region still live rurally and make a living from farming, with few or no agrochemicals used on the fields. Coffee remains the major cash crop for most families in the Guji region, who grow coffee alongside food for consumption.

Guji is bordered on the south and west by Borena, on the north by Gedeo and Sidama, and on the east by Bale and the Somali Region. Coffees that are classified as ‘Gujis’, originate from the ‘woreda’ (administrative regions) of Adoola Redi, Uraga, Kercha, Bule Hora, and Shakisso, which is where this lot is from.

 

ABOUT THE SIDAMA COFFEE REGION

Historically, Sidama refers to a wide geographical region encompassing much of central-south Ethiopia, that is well known for producing exceptional natural and washed coffees. The region is located in Ethiopia’s South East Coffee Zone, and includes renowned coffee-producing localities such as Yirgacheffe, Kochere, West Arsi, Bensa and Guji. Sidama extends across the states of Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR), two of eleven ethnically-based regional states of Ethiopia. After a 2019 Referendum, some of the territories that fall under the the Sidama coffee region have separated from the SNNPR and become the autonomous Sidama regional state.

Coffees that are grown and processed in Sidama showcase an extremely diverse range of flavour profiles, and are noted for their intensely fruit-forward, tea-like, floral and complex character that is sought after worldwide. It is widely accepted that the coffee species, Arabica, originated in the lush forests of southern forests of Ethiopia and hence growing conditions in this area are perfectly suited for producing exquisite coffees.

The Sidama coffee region is named for the Sidama people, a tribe with a long and proud history of coffee production. Coffee has been here for centuries and is an important source of income for rural households, who grow it as the primary cash crop. Family plots are small and intensively farmed with intercropped coffee, food crops like pulses, grain and yams, and other cash crops like khat (similar to tobacco) and Ethiopian banana. Most farms are planted amongst or alongside indigenous forest trees, which provide a thick canopy of shade for the coffee trees. Historically, farmers in this area will use organic farming practices (although it is unlikely to be certified) as there is no ready access to artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

VARIETY

This coffee is made up of JARC variety 74110.

For many years, most Ethiopian coffees have been described as being a mix of cultivated and wild varieties, referred to as “heirloom varieties.” This is a term that is all-encompassing and used by many actors in the coffee industry to generally categorise Ethiopian coffee varieties that are from native forest origins. Whilst this describes many of the varieties found in Ethiopia, it is also a bit simplistic and does not acknowledge the varieties that are already locally recognised and cultivated, or those that have been specifically developed and widely distributed by the Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC).

Sidama is home to many landrace varieties that were originally selected from the forest and have been propagated successfully for decades. There are five popular varieties that are named after indigenous trees in the area— Bedessa, Kudhumi, Mique, Sawe and Wolisho. There is little documentation on the history of these varieties, and it is hard to know if they represent a single plant or a wider group of varieties; however, it is widely accepted that they play a major role in the quality and floral flavour profile of the coffee from this region. JARC varieties were developed using “mother trees” from Ethiopia’s coffee forests, and are now grown for disease and pest resistance, as well as exceptional cup profile, and are released by number. For example, 74110, 74112 and 74116 are all widely propagated in the Sidama growing region.

 

PROCESSING

This coffee was processed using the natural method; a complex process requiring a high level of attention to detail in order to be done well. Ethiopian coffee has been processed this way by generations of farmers who have mastered the art of the natural method through centuries of tradition and experience.

Testi Coffee ensures that a great deal of care is taken in the processing and drying of their naturals, and they aim for all of their exportable coffee to be specialty quality grade. This coffee is classified as Grade 1, indicating that a lot of effort has been put into the selection, grading and drying to ensure the very highest quality coffee is produced.

Each day, carefully hand-picked coffee cherries are delivered to the wet mill and are meticulously hand-sorted prior to processing to remove unripe, overripe, or damaged fruit, in order to enhance the quality and sweetness of the cup.

The coffee is then graded by weight and spread evenly on raised African beds (screens) to dry in the sun. Initially, it is laid very thinly and turned regularly to ensure consistent drying and prevent over-fermentation. This is done very carefully to avoid damage to the fruit.

After a few days, when the coffee has reached 25% humidity—this is called the “raisin stage”—the layers of coffee are gradually increased. Careful attention and control during this drying phase ensures the coffee is stable and that a clean and balanced cup profile is achieved. The coffee is turned constantly whilst drying to ensure that it dries evenly and consistently. At midday, the coffee is covered to protect it from full sun. It is also covered overnight to prevent damage from morning dew.

Once the coffee reaches the optimum moisture level (usually after 15–18 days), it is hulled and rested in bags in parchment until it is ready for export.

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS SOURCED

Since 2018, regulation changes within the Ethiopian coffee industry have allowed smallholder producers and coffee washing stations to export coffee directly to the international market, rather than through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). While the ECX has provided stability and opportunity for many Ethiopian coffee farmers, it does not service the specialty market well, as there is an inherent lack of transparency and traceability in its auction model, and more points for potential corruption or confusion between the producing communities and the final buyer.

The recent changes enable a more streamlined coffee supply chain and provide an opportunity for the increased traceability and transparency of coffee trade in Ethiopia. Beyond this, producers who market and trade their coffee directly can access higher prices and more direct payments for their coffees. All of the coffee we purchase in Ethiopia is bought outside of the ECX system.

This coffee was sourced through our on-the-ground Ethiopian supply partner, Sucafina Ethiopia, who help connect us to single estates, privately owned washing stations and quality-focused exporters in different regions of Ethiopia. Based in Addis Ababa, Sucafina Ethiopia work as a service provider connecting local farmers and exporters (colloquially known as ‘shippers’) with international buyers like MCM. By Ethiopian law, they (and other foreign-owned entities) are not permitted to buy cherries directly, or to own washing stations or mills; however, their expertise is invaluable in coordinating multiple shippers, ensuring quality standards are met and handling all logistics in the preparation and local transport of our coffees. Through our shared commitment to responsible sourcing practices, quality and traceability, we have been connected to likeminded shippers, like Testi, who work to produce delicious and consistent coffees while running social programs that directly and meaningfully support coffee farmers and their families.

WHY WE LOVE IT

The word “testi” means happiness in the Harrari language, which is fitting as their coffees make us very happy! This coffee showcases the distinctiveness and exceptional potential of coffees from the Guji region. We love this natural lot for its bright, strawberry acidity, floral complexity and syrupy sweetness.