Ato Tesfaye Bekele is one of the people that put Guji specialty coffee on the map. While the Guji zone was dominated by cattle farmers, he sought new ways to make coffee popular in Guji. “I don’t consider myself to be a coffee farmer, because coffee is everything to me. All my time and energy are placed into the beans that I harvest and process.” Tesfaye Bekele, the founder of Suke Quto Farm, explains.
“I come from a coffee-producing family, so during my childhood, I started to work with coffee early on”, Tesfaye continues, “At first, coffee did not have my interest. The labor was hard, and the days were long. But after several years of study and other work I returned to my home in the Shakisso woreda, Guji. I found myself in coffee again”.
Suke Quto Farm is stretched out over the high lands and valleys of the Odo Shakisso woreda. The volcanic soil found on the farm is very fertile. Tesfaye keeps the soil in shape by organic recycling through litterfall, root residue from coffee and shade trees. Suke Quto coffees are all Organic and Rainforest Alliance certified. Tesfaye works together with 171 outgrowers that deliver cherries to the Suke Quto Washing and Drying Station. Besides partnering up with outgrowers, he owns another 221 hectares in the highlands of Guji. More than 200 seasonal workers are needed to pick and process the Suke coffees.
At the Suke Quto Washing Station, the washed coffees are pulped with an Agared machine. This is a pulper that has no mucilage remover. The coffee beans are fermented for about 35-48 hours (depending on the current weather) in fermentation tanks. There are three lagoons to store the wastewater. Suke’s natural coffees are dried between 9 and 15 days on elevated beds. Tesfaye focusses on environmentally friendly coffee and on the economic growth of the community. In other words, people should get a living income from sustainable coffee production. Tesfaye also initiated a community project that aims to renew local schools. With a handful of dedicated coffee roasters, Tesfaye has built a new school building in the neighboring village Kurume.