Despite not being one of the classified growing regions of Ethiopia, Zege has produced coffee for as long as can be remembered, with the crop occurring naturally and indigenously in the forest.
The Zege peninsula is about 3.5 x 5 km - there are approximately 9,500 inhabitants, of which about 3,000 live in the rural area of 'Afaf'. There are seven monasteries on Zege.
Originally, there was lots of coffee around the lake, Tana, but due to the felling of recent decades, this historic production has almost disappeared. The only exception is the Zege peninsula where this washed coffee is cultivated 1,850 metres above m.s.l., the harvest time is in February and March.
Our importers tell us that this coffee is thought to be 'sacred' by the locals. It is said that the saint, 'Betre Maryam,' once divided his wand into three parts and from the head of it sprang the first coffee plants. This unique story is immortalised in a wall painting within one of the seven monasteries on Zege. Moreover, there is also an old book in which this special event is described. For these historic and religious reasons, there is still there is no land cultivation taking place in the conventional sense, and thus, the naturally occuring 'sacred' coffee protects the forest and in turn the forest protects the 'sacred' coffee.
Coffee is really a special commodity on Zege. Traditionally, with much awe, the natives and the friars of the monasteries cultivated the coffee for their own consumption and that of the local market. There are a lot of very different qualities in the crop, virtually everything is collected and used. In the last four years (crop cycles), the importers have optimised harvesting and processing in co-operation with the native coffee farmers and cloisters, and so have together created a wonderful Zege Forest grown coffee.
This coffee growing project is also supported and facilitated by the World-Habitat-Society, which commits itself to the protection of the forest, regional development and sustainable tourism, as well as to the preservation and restoration of the monasteries and the graphic art of the peninsula, which partially originates from the 12th century. Zege forest grown coffee will be playing a part in all of these activities, as through the projects this region will be sustainably strengthened which will ensure the future production of this wonderful and unique Zege forest grown coffee.
In the cup there is an acidity, and a clean transparent front end of lemons. Then as it develops you get a full bodied wildness, funky coffee, with fermented fruits and wild bozy sherry with a hint the peet from a fine islay malt whisky. Not so great in espresso for me, but in a brewed long drink it is amazing. Stunning filter coffee.