The lot from Ture Waji has been processed at Sookoo Coffee’s Raro Nensebo Washing Station (located in Raro Nansebo village in Uraga) using the coffee from outgrowers farmers from Teraga (kebele), Urage, in the Guji Zone.
Sookoo’s washing stations are located in the Guji zone of the Oromia region of Ethiopia. The coffee from this area is sometimes mistakenly called Sidamo Guji, while instead it should be called Guji, or West-Guji on it’s own. This relatively young but already famous coffee area is recognized for its unique and distinctive cup profiles. In this beautiful landscape of forest jungle at an elevation of 2,100-2,350 meters above sea level, you can hear the workers singing cultural Guji songs while moving coffee around.
Ture Waji, famously known as ‘The King of Guji’, is the gentle ruler of Sookoo Coffee, located in the Woredas of Uraga and Shakisso. He has strong connections to the land, its community and farmers, as he grew up in region. After studying, he started as an export and farm manager at his cousin’s coffee farm and company Mormora, and at Guji Highlands Coffee. He was able to start Sookoo Coffee (previously Dambi Uddo), thanks to the trade and coffee liberalization in Ethiopia, building his first washing station and exporting his first coffee under his own brand in 2018.
About producer organization
Sookoo Coffee produces multiple lots across 2 drying stations. This year we found his Laayyoo natural lot, undoubtedly amongst one of the best coffees we cupped during and after our trip. The lot was produced at the Raro Nansebo washing station, located in Uraga, Guji, in the Kebele (village) of Raro Nansebo. The cherries are farmed by a community of washing station registered outgrowers in the Kebele (village) of Teraga.
The word Laayyoo refers to the indigenous tree growing in this area, used for shade on coffee plantations. Its deep roots allow for the falling leaves to offer rich, nutrient dense compost, acting also as a fertilizer for the coffee.
Ture Waji takes time between harvests to educate farmers on good agricultural practices to help improve the quality of their cherry. His company provides pre-harvest loans to farmers who, for example, need to pay labor to do maintenance on the farm, such as weeding and planting. Although we cannot draw a direct relation, this access to finance should mean that smallholder farmers need to draw less upon their family members, including their children. The washing stations employ a ‘woman-first’ policy and the company has built a school for the children. Roads have also been built to improve the infrastructure.
Ture’s work at Guji Highlands as plantation manager and exporter has given him the experience to produce top notch natural coffee, under a quality driven system. Sookoo Coffee focuses on working with smaller groups of farmers, and by providing technical assistance in the form of education and agricultural and picking practices, they can be assured to receive high quality cherry at their washing stations. Farmers generally deliver cherry to the washing station at night, so that the possibility of fermentation in between harvest in the afternoon, and delivery at night is minimized. At the station, the cherries still go through an extensive sorting process to remove over and under ripes. While the coffee is still fresh, it is laid out on Raro Nansebo station’s African beds to be dried in the full sun. Sookoo Coffee upholds a maximum layer density of 4cm and moves the cherries around on the beds 6 times per day. This minimizes the potential for over fermentation during drying, as well as the potential for defects. Total drying time for lots produced using the Sookoo Coffee processing protocol is 21-28 days. Strict attention to detail is what separates Sookoo Coffee’s product from the usual ECX “Grade 1 Natural”, where quantity and efficiency is preferred over quality. This attention to detail, according to Ture, is the reason for the silky mouthfeel, bright acidity and fruity and juicy nature of his coffees.
We are happy to see that Sookoo Coffee also values traceability and sustainability in relation to their farmers. Together we will continue to dive deeper and bring more understanding realities of farmers, stations and exporters, so we can collaborate as a chain for everyone’s benefit.
In Ethiopia, many coffees are produced by washing stations that buy cherries from smallholder farmers, as is the case with Sookoo Coffee. This year, the cherry price in Ethiopia, has been very high as compared to other years, even with a low C-market price. The reason for this is the local competitiveness on the cherry market. Difficult climatological conditions, the harvest, especially in Sidamo has been very low. While policy changes and liberalization in the coffee market, the number of exporters competing for cherries rose significantly. This situation create a ripple effect over the entire country, which turned to the farmer’s benefit. Although cherry prices last year were as low as 10 ETB, this year they average around 25 ETB, across the country.
Sookoo Coffee worked with a group of outgrowers for the Laayyoo lot, from Teraga village, in Uraga Guji. Because the farmers are organized, they have a good potential in delivering consistent quality cherries and receive better prices. Sookoo Coffee needs to be sure of quality cherries to be able to produce and export their amazing and high-end product. They paid their farmers 29 ETB for a kilo of wet cherry this year. As additional services, they provide education to improve quality, and loans to help farmers prepare for the season, pay for labor and expand production. Last year, they had a bonus structure for farmers, after a successful export season. This year, they are considering lowering the bonus to 0,5 ETB or skip it all together because of the uncertainty that remains due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sookoo Coffee has a multitude of costs along the supply chain from buying cherry to putting green coffee on the boat for export. For starters, for each kilo of green they between 6 and 7 kilos of cherry. They eventually pay the overhead costs of running and maintaining a washing station, transportation of cherries in the rural areas, processing the purchased cherry. There is also warehousing of the dried coffee, milling, transportation to Addis and then dry milling the coffee for export. In addition to these activities there are overhead costs from their Addis Office, taxes and interest on loans.
In terms of risks, we are not quite certain how to interpret them, but I would like to mention that if mistakes are made in processing coffee, it cannot be sold as a specialty grade 1 and it won’t reap the price intended for it. We hope to provide more insight into risks in a later stage.