Biftu Gudina Cooperative, Ethiopia
- Tasting Notes: Tropical Fruit, Bergamot, Fairy Floss
- Varietal(s): Heirloom
- Processing: Fully Washed, Fermentation of 36 hr
- Altitude: 1800 - 2200 masl
- Farm(ers): Small Holders
- Region: Jimma Zone, Oromia Region
Improving lives is complex, and specialty coffee is far from a savior. But the Biftu Cooperative is a great story that demonstrates that serious strides toward progress can be achieved via the endeavors of specialty coffee.
Around 2012, Technoserve, a nonprofit which aims to build business solutions to help people work out of poverty, started investigating Ethiopia and looking at the coffee sector in particular. Ethiopia was then – and is still today – held as producing some of the best coffees in the world. However, upon Technoserve’s research, many of the prices received for Ethiopian coffees, when compared to their Central or South American counterparts, did not reach the same prices nor show the same upward trajectory year on year. What was deduced was that there was a lack of year on year consistency in the coffees, which resulted in buyers, who need a reliable product, to not value Ethiopian coffees the same. Thus, Technoserve identified Ethiopia as a country with huge potential and specifically targeted western Ethiopia, which was not yet heralded as a premier producing region, as an area to work in. Their work largely looked like agricultural education, micro-financing of wet mills, help in managing debt, and verifying distribution of income to all members.
Via this program, the Biftu Gudina Cooperative got its start, but their story does not stop there. Since then, they have produced exceptional coffee for several years. In 2016, they joined twenty other co-operative washing stations to form the Keta Meduga Union, which helps market and sell coffee. The Union is largely regarded as one of the finest producing groups of Ethiopia and, arguably, in the world.
Zooming back down, each member manages between one to twenty hectares, however, this often looks like an intermixing of forest and coffee. Last we heard, the member ratio is 2 to 1, men to women, and there are just over 150 members. Their farms generally sit around 1800 to 2200 masl and are located within a radius of about 3 miles from the washing station. The Biftu washing station sits at nearly 2000 masl, and the coffee is de-pulped and then fermented for a full 36 hours in washing channels. After the fermentation process, the coffee is then moved to soak in clean water before being laid to dry on raised drying beds.