Shakiso is one of the lesser heralded regions in Ethiopia. Areas like Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar, etc are much more talked about but not necessarily better when it comes down to the brass tax of cup quality.
Shakiso is several hours south of Yirgacheffe in the Guji zone. Until recently the town itself was rarely recorded on most maps. Its not easily accessible and there isn’t much down there once you finally make it other than coffee forests and two large goldmines that have created tension and conflict in much of recent history. The most recent clashes have been between the rival Guji and the Borena Oromo tribes. Over 100 were killed in 2006. The long-story-short here is that Shakiso isn’t the most inviting place. That said there aren’t other coffee growing regions in Ethiopia, or anywhere for that matter, that get us so excited these days.
Yirgacheffe coffees have an unmatched floral component that are very rarely found in other coffees. The very best of them also have tremendously articulate fruit components, saturated sweetness and buoyant mouth feel. If its not clear, I am a huge fan of top Yirgacheffe. They’re not easy to come by though. Sidamos can be great although often not quite as complex as their counterparts in Gedeo. I generally love their sweetness and mouth feel and, on occasion, find a brilliance or effervescence in their acidity. Shakiso flavor profiles fall somewhere in-between the aforementioned. Although typically not as intense as Yirgacheffe the floral, sweetly perfumed aromatics of these coffees are simply beautiful. The cup profiles are laden with honey and stone fruit flavors that burst from the cup. Acidity is subtle but elegant. In my opinion Shakiso coffees are some of the most complete coffees out there. They have exquisite balance between sweetness and mouth feel with a refined acidity that binds everything together. These are coffees I want to drink every day and outside of Southern Colombia and a few Guatemalas I don’t say that kinda thing.
Why is this? I don’t know exactly but I have a healthy suspicion that a lot of it has to do with the fact that coffee production is fairly new in the area. Young trees, planted in fresh soil with excellent shading tend to excel for a deal of time. This is likely the case here along with the basic pre-requisites of high altitude, indigenous varietals and thorough processing being in place. Over 5,000 hectares are planted in Shakiso so, although young to some degree, coffee production is a critical component of the local economy. Processing also lends to a pristinely clean cup. After fermentation, the coffee beans are washed thoroughly in washing channels for hours before being sent to the drying stations. There are no solids left surrounding the bean’s parchment which means nothing interferes with the inherent cup quality within the bean and its core structure.
Although both Thompson and I have been buying multiple container loads of coffee from Shakiso the past 6 years our intention is to put even more focus on the region going forward. Keep an eye out for new projects from this coming harvest but in the meantime be sure not to miss out on the Guji Shakiso and Shakiso Moramora lots available now. These are beautiful coffees that the both of us have been scoring in the 90 range the past few weeks.