Genji Challa, Ethiopia
- Tasting Notes: Honeysuckle, Peach, Silky
- Varietal(s): Heirloom
- Processing: Fully Washed
- Altitude: 1800 - 2200 masl
- Farm(ers): Small Holders
- Region: Gera Woreda, Jimma Zone
Improving lives is complex, and specialty coffee is far from a savior. But the Genji Challa origin story 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 one of the best coffee producing countries in the world. However, Technoserve’s research showed that many of the prices received for Ethiopian coffees, do not fetch the same prices as their Central or South American counterparts, nor do they show the same upward trajectory year to year. What was deduced was that there was a lack of yearly consistency in these coffees, which resulted in buyers (who need a reliable product) not valuing Ethiopian coffee the same. Thus, Technoserve identified Ethiopia as a region with huge potential for their work, specifically targeting western Ethiopia, which was not yet heralded as a premier producing region. Their work largely consisted of agricultural education, micro-financing of wet mills, help in managing debt, and verifying distribution of income to all members.
The Nano Challa Cooperative got its start through this Technoserve program. Genji Challa is a new wet milling site that is part of the older, more recognized Nano Challa Cooperative. Genji Challa sits only 3km from the Nano Challa site, and between them, their membership has grown significantly. Doubling up wet mills has allowed the co-op to better serve members by growing their capacity as well as reach.
Genji Challa is outfitted with a modern water-saving, Penagos 5000 eco-pulper. Once the coffee is washed, it is moved to a drying table where it lies for a single day before being moved to raised beds where it finishes drying. This, on average, takes around 10 days. Also, the black netting which is typically wrapped around the tops of drying tables are covered with jute bags in order to help keep the surface from absorbing too much heat while the coffee is drying.
Although the Nano and Genji Challa mills sit at just under 1900 meters (above sea level), members’ farms can reach as high as 2200 masl. Unlike coffee producers in Sidama, Guji, or Yirgacheffe, farms in Gera Woreda tend to mostly be what is known as semi-forest coffee production sites. In this production system, the forest canopy is pruned back, and the under-brush is cleared for coffee. While much is cleared for coffee in this type of system, semi-forest production does maintain a fair amount of plant diversity and a healthy upper canopy.