The beginning of a journey into ‘Wild Forest’ coffee
Thanks to a chance meeting with Gary Battell at Ipswich Market, little did we know our combined interest in coffee, charity and conservation, would lead us on an enlightening and very special journey into the discovery of ‘wild forest’ coffee, from the Zege region of Ethiopia. So we joined our commitment to make this trip happen. Gary is an amazing man with a driven passion to all three of the above causes. He supports Partners for Change, a registered charity, with a mission of helping women and children in Ethiopia.
In a world where fewer and fewer things are sacred, coffee on the Zege Peninsula is truly ‘holy’. We met the village elders and monastery leaders and it felt like a Pilgrimage. Zege Forest is so important to the local population. On the surface, the peninsula and its inhabitants seem to live by a different set of rules. They are raw and spiritual with a huge sense of responsibility to protect the forest. They seem more relaxed and undisturbed by daily material concerns. Humble and faithful, they go about their lives with more respect to their habitat. One thing we all held in high esteem, was the importance of ‘Zege’ coffee. There are only three crops allowed for cultivation on the peninsula; lemon, hops, and coffee. The coffee ceremony is a must wherever we went.
Gary Battell’s involvement is so important to this project. Deforestation on the peninsula was worse and worryingly, still happening. The challenge is to ensure alternative employment for the local population. Coffee growing is the main crop. Our goal is to improve the agricultural methods in cultivating and harvesting coffee, whilst providing meaningful employment in the process. Zege Peninsula is a designated Biosphere area. Coffee grows in a forest environment, resulting in a smooth coffee that is virtually organic, purely by the very nature of how it is grown.
Zege coffee has a light zesty acidity, smooth body, with a soft spice fruity, bold aftertaste. The unique taste profile of the coffee differentiates the product from those available on the market, offering consumers a coffee with zest and character, which is deeply satisfying and enjoyable. I would strongly recommend that this coffee is served as a long drink, via a dripper, cafetiere, or filter, rather than an espresso.
In the Zege region, coffee is considered to be a sacred plant. Given its divine origins, local farmers do not permit the land to be cultivated. Rather, the naturally occurring coffee beans are picked by hand, following a tradition, thousands of years in the making. The Amhara Coffee Project is committed to helping farmers preserve their livelihood through sustainable farming methods, and is bound by a deep-seated respect for the culture and beliefs of the people of the Zege Peninsula, making this a very special project we are honoured to be a part of.
This season we visited farms and cooperative with some involvement of Inter-American, a subsidiary of Neumann Koffee Groupe. The company buys Zege Coffee mainly for the German market. Menelik, a farmer on the peninsula with a keen interest on seeing Zege coffee enter the UK market, kept his promise to support Coffeelink and secured some of the harvest, exclusive to us here in the United Kingdom. We carefully choose the people we work with. Michael and Eden and Michael Gebreselassie have been fundamental in securing Zege Coffee for Coffeelink. They showed us unbelievable hospitality and worked tirelessly to ensure a successful trip.