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The Guji Zone lies approximately 400 km south of Addis Ababa in the Guji Zone of the Oromia Region. Prior to 2002, Guji coffee was bundled together with Yirgacheffe and Sidamo coffee under the umbrella “Sidamo” name. However, after 2002, Guji coffee (as well as Yirgacheffe coffee) is now recognized by its own name.

Despite its long journey of recognition, Guji coffee is widely recognized as distinct from both Yirgacheffe and Sidamo coffees thanks to the unique local varieties and microclimates. Like most areas of southern Ethiopia, Guji is blessed with many regional varieties of coffee. These are varieties indigenous to the area, often having grown naturally for decades or even centuries.

Named after a tribe of the Oromia people, Guji is one of the zones of the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Guji is surrounded by Borena in the south, by the Southern Nations Nationalities, and Peoples Region on the west, on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale, and on the east by Somalia region. The highest peak in this zone is Mount Dara Tiniro. Major cities and towns in this zone include Nagele Borana the administrative center.

Hands down, Guji coffee is one of the best coffee produced in Ethiopia. Having a stark difference from Yirgacheffe and Sidamo coffee, Guji coffee brings a unique flavor that is favored by many baristas from around the world. In this article, we look at the history of the Guji region, the culture and tradition of the people, and the unique flavor of the amazing Guji coffee.

The history of the Guji region

Guji is located in the southern part of Ethiopia. It is one of the zones in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. From the south, Guji is neighbor with Borena and from the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale, and on the east by the Somali region.

It is widely believed that Guji is one of the first areas where the Oromo people have settled in what is today’s present-day Ethiopia. Historians believe that the Guji people have settled in this region for over five centuries. From this area, Oromos moved slowly Northwards across the country over the centuries.

Historically, the Guji people were pastoralists who took care of their herd cattle. Today, the majority of Guji residents are farmers. Much of the land is covered with trees. Because of the fertile soil, Guji is treasured with, many people from different parts of the country are settling in Guji to farm. Most importantly, because of the fertility of the soil, farmers do not use fertilizers.

Culture and tradition of the Guji people

The Guji people regard their region as an important center of the Oromo tribe and culture. People in Guji, similar like all Oromos, are governed by a traditional system of governance called Gadaa. The Gadaa system regulates political, economic, social, and religious activities of the community dealing with issues such as conflict resolution, reparation, and protecting women’s right. It serves as a mechanism for enforcing moral conduct, building social cohesion, and expressing forms of community culture. 

Gadaa is organized into five classes consisting of a chairperson, officials, and an assembly. Each class progresses through a series of grades before it can function in authority with leadership changing on a rotational basis every eight years. The classes are taught by oral historians covering history, laws, rituals, time reckoning, cosmology, myths, rules of conduct, and the function of the Gadaa system. 

Meetings and ceremonies take place under a sycamore tree (considered the Gadaa symbol) while major clans have established Gadaa centers and ceremonial traditions. Knowledge about the Gadaa system is transmitted to children in home and in school. 

Coffee and the Guji people

Coffee farming is deep-rooted in the Guji people’s culture. As the saying goes “the two are inseparable.” Similar to the rest of the Oromo people, the Guji people have grown coffee trees in their fields for many centuries. Even today, many Guji farmers follow traditional methods to grow their coffee trees. Coffee is often incorporated with foods crops as a means of land use and providing food and income for farmers.

Guji coffee and its unique flavor profile

Up until 2002, Guji coffee was bundled together with Yirgacheffe and Sidamo coffees under the umbrella “Sidamo” coffee. Because of their unique profiles and flavors, both Guji and Yirgacheffee coffees started to be recognized by their own names.

Coffee from the Guji region offers a balanced and pleasingly complex cup profile – perfect for both filter and espresso. In general, cuppers agree that Guji coffee comes with characteristics like the aromas of sweet peach and chocolate. It also has a bold character with a smooth, chocolate mouthfeel.