BergWu Maker Series Yirgacheffe Wuri Washed
Region: SNNPR, Gedeo, Worka-Sakaro
Grower: 850 producers organized around Wuri Processing Station
Altitude: 1,900 – 2,100 masl
Plant Varietal: Heirloom Typica
Tasting Notes: Jasmine, Lychee, Peach, Lemon
This lovely coffee hails from Worka-Sakaro, a neighborhood (kebele) in the Gedeb district (woreda) of the Gedeo Zone – also home to the more famous Yirgacheffe woreda. The Gedeo people in the region received the honorific “worik” (ወርቅ, Amharic for “gold”) from government surveyors who were redrawing regional boundaries. They then attached the Gedeo translation (“worka”) to their word for a huge local tree, Sakaro.
The microregion is rich with coffee, and this selection from the privately owned Wuri washing station (Wuri is Gedeo for “high elevation) was grown by smallholder farmers living in the area. The washing station has already established itself with a reputation for quality and experimentation, preparing what they claim is Ethiopia’s first anaerobically prepared coffee for Berg Wu (2016 World Barista Champion, from Taiwan).
Worka-Sakaro is a municipality located in northeast Gedeb close to the Guji border. It is a remote but impressively industrious area for coffee production. Of the 1300 hectares that comprise the area, over half of them are planted with coffee. Up to a few years ago when coffee exports were allowed only limited channels, the vast majority of coffee grown in this area was either processed and exported by the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU), consolidated under the wide-reaching Worka Cooperative, or sold anonymously through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX).
Today, however, in addition to the Worka Cooperative splitting into multiple smaller coops, there are increasing numbers of single farm owners and independent companies who are processing and exporting direct. It is an exciting time to be buying in Gedeb, where we expect to see new layers of coffee continuously unfold as its local industry accelerates. Currently there are two private washing stations in Worka-Sakaro, one of which is Wuri, whose name in the Gedeo language translates to “high altitude”. The station was originally constructed in 2012 and today is owned by Ranger Industry & Trading PLC. Wuri, aside from producing assertive and tropical fully washed coffees, is also focused on achieving a diversity of processing and milling standards in order to iterate on local traditions and expand expectations of coffees from this area.
Private processors like Wuri are a thing to behold. It’s a tough business being a private processor in Gedeo, as the sheer density of competition among washing stations tends to push cherry prices as high as double throughout a single harvest, and privates often don’t have the backing of a larger union to secure financing, regulate cherry prices, or bring export costs down with centralized milling and marketing. Successful private washing stations like Wuri, then, need to be not only standout quality processors to stay afloat; they must also be excellent business developers with connections and community standing, in order to continue winning the business of farmers and buyers alike, and stay afloat for the long term. Successful innovation and buyer collaboration is certainly one way to do so.
In college he began to come in contact with coffee when he’d go to coffee shops with Chee, who was then his girlfriend. The two got interested in the subject, and would frequently go online to leave posts on coffee forums. Wu took great pleasure in brewing coffee for others’ enjoyment. “From a young age, I loved cooking and making desserts. I’d give a go at cooking whatever I wanted to eat, and I particularly enjoyed cooking for family and friends. It’s my personality. For the same reasons, I like making coffee for people.”
Starting by brewing with a French press, Wu was immediately captivated by brewing and even considered opening a streetside coffee stall. And so, despite having a prestigious degree in electrical engineering from National Taiwan University, on weekends and holidays he’d ride a tricycle stand of his own design around the Jingmei and Gongguan areas of Taipei to sell coffee. Fascinated by the feedback he got from his customers, he eventually made plans to open his own coffee shop.
After graduating, he worked as a patent engineer up until 2011 when he decided to quit his high-paying job and open a coffee shop. “I made the decision thinking that even if the shop didn’t have a large clientele I could use it for my personal training.” Wu recalls that process of starting a business and participating in competitions: Even when business was slow, he would still stand at the bar and practice his brewing techniques quite happily.
When he first watched the 2008 WBC in Denmark, Wu was excited at seeing the superb performance of champions from around the world. “Everyone on stage was a world-class barista,” he recalls. “I was thinking how awesome it would be if one day I could be up on that stage.”