Gesha Village Ethiopia Limited Release
- October 2018
- Written by : Geoff Watts
Vice President / Green Coffee Buyer
The Farm: Gesha Village
About as far west as one can get in Ethiopia, mere kilometers from the South Sudan border, in the region known as Bench Maji, there is an incredible coffee story unfolding. It is a tale of serendipity and revival that provides a glimpse into the future, foretelling the mouthwatering coffee flavors possible when the latent potential present in the genetic birthplace of coffee is unlocked. A deliberate, patient fusion of modern quality control with traditional respect for the incomparable talent of nature.
The Gesha Village farm is at once new and extremely old. Although it was founded just seven years ago, it is located in the heart of the planet’s most ancient coffeelands, right in the zone where coffee first appeared on the earth. The forest that houses the farm is full of ancient, towering trees that have given shelter to wild coffee for centuries. It is a botanist’s dream, a lush green landscape marked by waterfalls and diverse wildlife where the coffee seems at peace, thriving in biologically active soils undisturbed by civilization’s demands.
The farm is planted with several different coffee types: 1931, the coffee associated most closely with the ‘Geisha’ variety that is now planted in pockets all around the world, Illubabor Forest 1974, a variety selected by the Jimma research center that is has become widespread in Ethiopia, and Gori Gesha. The most intriguing of these is surely the Gori Gesha, a forgotten coffee that was harvested from wild trees growing in the forest. I like to call it the OG: Original Gesha.
While many coffee lovers are now somewhat familiar with the expatriated variety that goes by the name of Geisha, few realize that it has dozens of brothers, sisters and cousins living in Ethiopia. In 1936, seeds were collected in the forests of Gori Gesha and transported to a coffee research facility in Costa Rica, via Kenya and Tanzania. Most of the ‘Geisha’ being cultivated all over the Americas today is descended from those seeds. Gori Gesha represents the rest of the family that stayed home, living in the forest in relative obscurity, unknown to the coffee-consuming world abroad until now. It is not one type but several, cultivated from cherry collected by Gesha Village’s founders Adam Overton and Rachel Samuel Overton from the forest areas near the farm. It is fascinating and dynamic, an ancient coffee recently emerged from anonymity that all of us are just beginning to get to know. Its best stories are yet to be told; each year it reveals more of its potential and shows new aspects to its character. I find it especially exciting because it represents a return to coffee’s roots, before varieties were botanically classified and isolated. It is a modern coffee mystery that will only be solved with patience and time, a sensory adventure that can transport us to the earliest days of coffee and provide us with delicious surprises each year.
Adam and Rachel have a lot to be proud of and even more to be excited about. In their first several years of coffee production, they’ve already managed to produce some outrageously tasty lots that defy expectations and captivate us on the cupping table like few others. Their work in Bench Maji is bringing about a promising renewal of interest in a part of the country that had long been neglected by the coffee industry. They are not only uncovering latent potential and showcasing beautiful coffees: by helping these coffees find their way onto the world stage they are creating a pathway for thousands of farmers in the far west of Ethiopia to benefit from a natural resource that has been unrecognized and undervalued for most of its history.
I love this coffee for what it is and also what it represents: a trip back into coffee’s past and a foreshadowing of its future. It speaks to much of what we celebrate in coffee and wine today; compelling craftsmanship combined with the taste of place and a profound respect for the mysteries of nature. Much like the natural wine movement embraces the values of variety and nature’s ability to surprise us, the Gesha Village approach—most especially with Gori Gesha—acknowledges the benefits of intentional production while maintaining a reverence and plenty of open space for the less predictable beauty that comes about as a result of things that we do not control.