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Lost in the Gedeo Zone

Who needs clean clothes when you’ve got coffee this good?

My most recent trip to the Gedeo Zone of Ethiopia began like many of my trips do – with a hiccup. As I arrived in East Africa, my luggage rested comfortably in Frankfurt, Germany. After traveling for 30 hours from San Francisco to Addis Ababa, with another flight and a day's drive ahead of me, missing luggage put a serious dent in my calm.

Ethiopia is gorgeous, and life abounds. The people of Ethiopia will frequently remind you that Coffea arabica – the only coffee species worth caring about – is theirs. And they’re right. Historically, coffee’s story likely started in Ethiopia. It spread to Yemen through the once popular port of Moka, then to Indonesia and the other Pacific islands, then on to Latin America, and then, ironically, back to the rest of Africa.

I was facing a week with nothing but the clothes on my back, which were getting stinkier by the minute, my camera, and a phone. My tent, clothes, and – ugh – clean underwear were in Frankfurt.


I was hurting, jet lagged, and smelly by the time I got to a newly-built washing station near Jimma. One of the hosts took pity on my condition and offered some local white honey. I gratefully accepted. It was delicious – floral, viscous, and creamy – and after countless hours on the road with nothing to eat, it was just right. The combination of travel drama, sleep deprivation, and sugar rush nearly made me lose my mind. I was basically tripping.

But it was all worth it. My hours of driving in the stench of my own dingy clothes, the feeling that my underwear had become a permanent part of me, the ever-increasing suspicion that someone in Frankfurt was laughing as they rifled through my belongings ... it was all worth it because the coffees I got my hands on in Ethiopia this season are extraordinary.

Our Gedeo coffee from the Chelba washing station in Yirgachefe is absurdly delicious. Gedeo Selection is the best we’ve tasted from the famed region all year. It’s a bouquet of fruit and florals, dripping with fancy lemonade and tropical fruit, with impressive flavors of honey, tea notes, and peach. It was so intense, I momentarily forgot my travel drama, and lost myself in the glory of that amazing cup of coffee.


By ryan brown

Tonx Coffee Buyer

Published Sep. 3, 2013

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