Gelgelu Edema Birisho is 78 years old, and grew up with no formal education, though he proudly boasts that of his eleven children one has their post-graduate MBA, six more completed their undergraduate degrees, and the youngest daughter was accepted and will be attending university in the coming year. Along with his wife Elfinesh Babayo, their son Mengistu (an agronomist) and Tsegaye (the MBA grad), Mr. Gelgelu has been growing coffee for an incredible 58 years.
Gelgelu‰۪s seen a lot in his half-century-plus career as a coffee grower. He started growing coffee under Haile Selasie‰۪s empire, and coffee value was low, so he sold to Arabian traders directly, bypassing the Addis auctions. In the 70s and 80s during the Derg regime, coffee production was nationalized and Gelgelu was obligated to sell the Coffee Board. After the downfall of Ethiopian communism and the rise of cooperatives, Gelgelu joined the Worka coop (part of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers‰۪ Cooperative Union). In 2012, Royal coffee engaged with the YCFCU in a one-of-a-kind private agreement to select ‰ÛÏmodel‰ farmers and separate their coffees out before being regionally blended at the ECX, and Gelgelu was one of the very first such selections. He lent his support to others to join the program as well, offering advice and expertise on how to reap the rewards of their potential.
We were thrilled with the first cupping, ripe berry, peach, guava, red grape, and cherry cola flavors lept from the cup. A chocolate-mousse-like viscosity held the complexity of flavor together with grace, and a really elegant finish of vanilla and light jasmine offer the taster the reminder that, yes, this coffee is a prime example of an experienced and attentive producer, working with exceptional cultivars in prime conditions to realize exceptional quality. It‰۪s the kind of coffee that can encapsulate why we love selections from southern Ethiopia.