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  • 28 Jun 2017

    Origin Story: Mr. Girma Eshetu

    posted by Jamie Isetts - Green Buyer

    We value the experience of working with a single farmer whenever possible because it allows for the unique expression of one person’s vision in the product we serve every day. Tracing to one or a handful of people also allows for better accountability and collaboration on agricultural and processing practices.

    Single farmer Ethiopian coffees are extremely difficult to come by due to the low production volume of the average farm. Through the hard work of our supply chain partner, Taylor Mork of Crop to Cup coffee, we are thrilled to showcase the work of a medium-scale producer, Girma Eshetu.

    Taylor related this story from Girma, recounted over a campfire on his last visit.

    Over warm beers and lamb at his farm one night, Eshetu proceeded to tell us his lifelong story, which led him to discover his real family (he only knew his mother, but no father or relatives), birthplace, etc. just within the last few years. Girma - or Girm, if you're on that basis with him - was moved at a young age by his mother to Yirgacheffe from his birthplace, the location of which he had never known. His father was missing after being conscripted as a soldier in the army to a war at the Kenyan border.

    When they arrived, they found out he had been killed, so the government gave his mother a home and a small parcel of land in a village in Yirgacheffe. That's just where the government happened to have open land to give out at the time. Real basic - he remembers her running a little village kiosk selling soap, foodstuffs, etc. He also, oddly, remembers himself always toying around with metals. He did some rudimentary welding of metals when he was a little kid, just tinkering around with soldering, alongside the dusty road behind the kiosk. It was as if he had some innate connection to metal works. Yet, his mother never told him much about where they were originally from, to which tribe or village they were native.

    Fast forward, Girma studied hard in the village schools and received a placement at a technical college in Addis. He moved into mechanical engineering, then became the lead engineer at the St. George Beer factory in Addis for 20 years, and eventually started his own coffee wet mill production house. He produced roughly 200 around the country. Now we're up to just a few years ago. He's attending some engineering/manufacturing expo in Addis and he goes to check out some unique metal he has heard about. The metal is produced and sourced in a small area out in western Ethiopia, by chance not too far from where he had recently leased some land for his coffee farm.

    He's at the booth and realizes, gee, this rep looks a lot like me. So they get to talking and he thinks they might be from the same small tribe out west, since the look is so particular. Soon enough he's visiting the village and, behold, he finds his family! Extended, that is. The people there remember his mother setting off to find the father who hadn't returned from army service, and of course, little Girm. He looks around, and the tribe and region's specialty is—what else--highly skilled metalworking. They even produce this amazing metal sourced in the nearby hills.

    Girma is a man in his fifties, so, having lived so long alone without any family connection undoubtedly made his telling of the relatively recent story quite animated. The guy is pretty excited to finally know his tribe and home village!

    The estate that this coffee comes from is the farm that Girma Eshetu started in the area that he later discovered belonged to his ancestral tribe. We’re lucky to showcase his delicious coffee and incredible story this season.