The name Adado rings a bell in the ears of many coffee buyers. And the reason is quite simple. Adado coffee nestled itself in our sensory memories because the coffees from this famed Yirgacheffe micro-region are, and continue to be, outstanding in quality and taste. Adado coffees remain one of Gedeo’s finest.
This blog takes you through a concise beanology of the Adado coffee region. We will cover Adado’s position on the map, why Adado coffee resonates throughout the market, explain snippets about the Gedeo culture, and how we, as a coffee importer, got involved with the growers of Adado.
To understand where and what Adado is, you need to understand the structure of Ethiopia’s regions and subregions. Ethiopia is divided by ten autonomous regional states, and within these states you find zones. These zones are the popular coffee regions you often see on a pack of coffee. E.g. Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, or Guji.
The zones are divided by woredas, the sub-regions. Go a level deeper and you find the kebeles. These micro-regions often bear the name of the largest, or only, village in the area. Alternatively, the name of a kebele can refer to the local community. Adado is both a village and a kebele.
So, when people ask you where Adado is, you can say the following: Adado kebele and village are found within the SNNRP state, Gedeo/Yirgacheffe zone, and Bule Woreda. When you offer an Adado coffee to consumers, this is the structure of the information you can use on your coffee bags:
Take note*: in the coffee industry, we label all coffees from Gedeo as Yirgacheffe. That is why buyers use and prefer Yirgacheffe when talking about Gedeo. However, Gedeo is the official name of this zone. Hence the slash between Gedeo and Yirgacheffe.
The Adado region finds itself around 7000 and 8000 feet – 2100 to 2400 m.a.s.l. It is a mountainous lush area where small muddy and rocky roads are the only elements breaking the blanket of outstretched forests. These highlands offer the Gedeo people the opportunity to farm two main crops: coffee and enset.
Coffee remains a cash crop in Adado. Growers typically sell the crop to neighboring collectors and washing stations. But they use enset, the false banana plant, for home consumption. During our field trips to Adado and Yirgacheffe, growers remarked that 12 full-grown enset plants can partially feed a family for a year. Other grown crops include maize, chat, sugarcane, and barley.
The climate in Adado is moderate and the region enjoys the two major crop seasons in Ethiopia: meher and belg. Meher is the colder season of the two and brings more frequent rains between June and October. Belg is known to give sporadic showers between February and June.
But as several agricultural reports claim, the meher and belg overlap. The general rule of thumb is to categorize meher as the months between September and February, and belg between March and August. However, every season will be slightly different as climates shift.
You can’t talk about the Gedeo people without mentioning something about their rich history and culture. We can only lightly touch on these topics because in-depth research would require Gedeo locals and historians, and years of study. Here is a snippet of their history and culture.
The Gedeo people are a unique ethnic group and trace their origin back to Deressa. Oral tradition tells us Deressa had seven sons from two wives. Hemba, Logoda, Bakaro, Darasha, Hanuma, Doba, and Gorgosha are the names of the sons. Deressa divided Gedeo equally among his sons on his deathbed. And today, the clans in Gedeo bear the names of the seven sons.
With this division among the sons, social organization and rituals formed among the Gedeo. One of the more known systems is Gada. History tells us that the Gada system took center-stage in Gedeo’s socio-political organization and ritual leadership. The Aba Gada being at the top. Listen to what Philippa Bevan and Alula say in their Ethiopian Village Studies, issue 1.
“At the top of the Gada leadership was the Aba Gada, whose primary duties and functions were more ritual than political. Besides this, however, the Aba Gada dealt with inter-clan and inter-ethnic conflicts, settled disputes, and heard appeals. Supernatural powers, it was believed, were also bestowed upon the Aba Gada. As a result, he could bless the people so that they would have good harvests, peace, and happiness, or he could pronounce a curse on those whom he did not favor, in which case it was feared that they would be hit by misfortunes. This belief obliged the members of the community to abide by the instruction of the Aba Gada and remain faithful to the Gada in power.””
History tells us that the Gedeo people believe in Magganno, the Sky God. For them, Magganno stands at the center of creation. Besides traditional beliefs, you find Orthodox Christians, Christians, and Muslims in Gedeo who co-exist peacefully.
Within the coffee industry, region names speak to the imagination and quickly become a story by themselves. This is true for Adado. As coffee buyers traveled to Adado, a few started to notice heavy mists, even during the daytime, luring over the rolling high mountainous ranges of Adado.
The mists cloak entire patches of forests. It creates stunning sights. It’s as if you’re looking at a sea of mist with forested islands rising above. Striking and funny enough, the misty valley name is often used by coffee buyers and roasters, but outside the industry, the name doesn’t carry far.
Besides the resonating names of Adado and misty valley, several other elements claimed the popularity of Adado coffee in the market. Elevation, soil, climate, varieties, and processing. As we’ve covered the area on a geographic and climate level, let’s take a closer look at coffee varieties and processing.
The genetic diversity of Ethiopian Arabica coffee is astounding. Agronomists, and the JARC in Limu, estimate a pool of six to ten thousand unique coffee varieties in Ethiopia. The larger chunk of these coffee varieties remains unknown to buyers, agronomists, and even growers. Assembling a complete catalog of varieties is a puzzle we won’t solve that easily.
Taking this into mind, it would be rather naïve to claim we know exactly which coffee varieties can be found in Adado. But based on the input of our grower partners in the region, we can highlight three prominent varieties:
The Kurume, Dega, and Wolisho are well-known Ethiopian coffee varieties flourishing in the highlands of Yirgacheffe and Guji. The rest of the unknown coffee varieties found in Adado, categorize under the catch-all phrase mixed heirloom. Or, for some, regional landrace varieties sound more accurate.
These unique Adado-specific varieties, with their high bean densities and great cup characteristics, are the prime reason for the famed taste of the Adado coffee. The favorable conditions of altitude, soil, climate, and processing amplify the unique tastes of these varieties.
Two prime processing methods are used in Adado: washed and natural. The washing process highlights the clean and resonating acidity and limy characters of the Kurume, Dega, and Wolisho varieties. Naturals take a place on the stage too. There’s a growing trend among smallholders in Yirgacheffe to setup small drying stations in their backyards. And when successful, some even get a chance to get an export license with the help of an agent or exporter.
Either way, the distribution of processing knowledge among washing station owners and smallholders in Yirgacheffe remains essential. It elevates the overall level of quality and brings better-tasting Adado coffees to the table. And speaking about taste.
Like listing every unique coffee variety in Adado, it is similarly complicated to give a typical flavor descriptor. That being said, we have plenty of data on Adado coffees landing on our cupping tables. Bundling the data together, we get the following rough outline of flavor notes, body, and acidity.
Adado coffee washed: bright acidity, medium body, and often floral notes and tastes of citrus, lemon, and peach.
Adado coffee natural: medium to high acidity, medium body, sweet, floral, and berry-like tastes.
There is a tendency in the coffee industry to talk about several unique and picturesque sceneries where coffee grows. We all enjoy the stories about an inaccessible farm found upon an obscure hill where this brilliant micro-lot was sourced. In some cases, it is true. A recent example is a micro-lot we sourced from an Adado-based grower called Bekele Legay.
However, the grand story of Ethiopian coffee centers communities. Entire villages producing and delivering high-quality coffees in large volumes. It takes a village to raise a coffee, so to speak. The same is true for Adado. You find countless smallholders who grow coffee in their production gardens. Often canopy-covered backyards where coffee grows besides enset, maize, and avocado trees.
These Adado smallholders deliver their cherries to a collector, cooperative, or washing station. In Adado you find the Adado Cooperative and the Adado washing station. The Adado Cooperation sources cherries from four sites and owns two washing stations to process coffee. But as mentioned, smallholders, when well informed about the process, can take the drying process into their own hands.
We’ve created this supply chain framework so you can understand the movement of coffee.
In many ways, Adado marks the beginning of Trabocca. Because when our founder Menno set up multiple coffee supply chains in Guji, he also crossed the Gedeo zone in 2004. During a short visit, he laid the groundwork for fruitful cooperation between Trabocca and the Adado Cooperative. And, as some of our team members claim, he coined the term misty valley. But that’s still up for debate.
Menno always speaks highly of Adado and its coffee.
This is the Champagne-region of Ethiopia. Perfect growing conditions. The right amount of rain and fertile ground absorbs all essential minerals.”
At the Adado Cooperative Menno bumped into broken down processing equipment and machines. But at the same time, he found an eagerness among the Adado coop-members to step up their game.
Together with Allegro Coffee, Menno pre-financed an eco-pulper for the Adado Cooperative. And later on, the coop even earned its Organic and Fair Trade certificate. Since that first meeting and today, we had the opportunity to source amazing Adado coffee.
As a coffee importer, we focus on discovering, developing, and delivering coffees. But besides perfecting supply chain operations, we have the responsibility to deliver valuable information to coffee roasters. If you enjoyed this piece about Adado, please continue your search for more coffee knowledge here. You can also sign up for our newsletter to receive new content and spot coffee announcements in your inbox every Thursday.