From historic times, Ethiopia has provided some of the world’s best single origin premium coffee beans. In general, Ethiopian coffees are known for their complexity with a pungent, winey quality and a distinct wildness in their acidity.
Altitude Range: 1500 – 2200 MASLLanguage Spoken: AmharicHarvest: November – FebruaryAnnual Coffee Production: 6,600,000 bags (2013)Common Varieties: Arabica, native heirloom varieties.Avg Farm Size: In general, small plantations.
Coffee Growing Regions of Ethiopia
There are three main coffee-producing regions in Ethiopia (with many subsets). Each coffee-growing region produces a truly distinct coffee.
The southern Gedeo zone of Ethiopia, known for its wet processed (washed) coffees, produces the spicy, fragrant Yirgacheffes with their delicate body, sweet flavor and floral aroma including shimmering notes of citrus. These coffee beans are consistently some of the highest rated in the world, and while often pricey, are much more affordable than most Konas or Jamaican Blue Mountain. Natural growing methods (including pest control) made Organic Certification an easy sell to farmers, and Fair Trade Organic certified coffees are abundant. While Yirgacheffe is technically a part of Sidama, their higher quality and name-recognition allows them to be separated out.
Also grown in the south are the full-bodied and complex Sidamo coffees (or Sidama) with their rich mouthfeel and bright finish. Sidamo green coffee beans are often less expensive than their Yirgacheffe counterparts, but reflect a better value in terms of price-to-quality.
The eastern region of Ethiopia, known for its dry processed (unwashed; natural) coffees, produces the Harrars with their fruity or winey tones, complex blueberry notes, bright (sometimes brilliant) acidity, and with a medium to heavy body that has a dry edge to it. Harrar coffees are a distinctive wild-varietal specific to the region, and are hand processed by locals.
Exporting from Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) was set up in 2008 to smooth out pricing and help protect the farmers from volatility in the market, which could affect their livelihood. It turns coffee production into a more stable commodity, providing warehousing, trading, trading and payment to allow for more consistency, but as a draw-back, doesn’t allow for premiums for better crops (all crops are averaged together for consistency).
- Farmers deliver their cherries to a local wet mills
- Wet mills deliver unroasted green coffee (parchment coffee) to warehouses, and graded by region plus physical qualities (defects, size) and cupping quality
- Warehouses sell and deliver coffee to exporters and distributors within Ethiopia, who arrange delivery to wholesalers in other countries
Djimmah coffee, grown in the Illubabor and Kaffa regions at elevations from 4,400 to 6,000 feet above sea level, is an excellent, low-acid Ethiopian coffee when it is wet processed (washed). When Djimah is dry processed natural; unwashed), however, it is known to impart a generally undesirable medicinal flavor.
Limu Coffee, which is is grown at elevations ranging from 3,600 to 6,200 feet in southwest Ethiopia, is a high-quality wet processed (washed) Ethiopian coffee that exhibits a relatively low acidity yet is somewhat sharp.
Limu and Djimmah are frequently distinguished by being from Western Ethiopia, with Limu being wet processed and Djimmah being dry processed.
Other African Coffees
The entire region around Ethiopia produces coffee, including neighboring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and just across the red sea – Yemen. Each region has a distinct flavour profile and traditional processing methods.
Coffee in Ethiopian Culture
In Ethiopia coffee is an important part of the culture, and a respected daily event is the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. Most historians agree that coffee originated in Ethiopia, though there is some debate over the issue. Ethiopia is where the frequently told story originates, of a goat breeder who noticed strange behaviour in his flock of goats after they ate berries from a certain tree. Taking the berries to a monastery, monks brewed him a tea from it and coffee was developed and refined from the resulting brew, spreading across the region and eventually the world.
Also see the World’s Best History of Coffee.
Espresso Coffee Guide – The Top Coffee Source
More great coffee information can be found in All About Coffee which covers all aspects of coffee from soil to sip. Whether you love your coffee in a french press, chemex or espresso machine, you’ll find valuable information.
This includes coffee plants and coffee cherry, and full descriptions of all of the world’s top gourmet coffee beans including Organic Coffee, Fair Trade Coffee, Bird Friendly Coffee and Shade-Grown Coffee.
Also see: Best Coffees In the World
Coffee Makers and Espresso Machines
Also included are full details about Coffee Makers (Automatic Drip Coffee Makers, Single Serve Coffee Makers, Pod Coffee Makers, Coffee Pods, Coffee K-Cups, T-Discs, and French Press, (also see Best Coffee Makers), and Espresso Machines (including Pod Espresso Machines) as well as Instant Coffee and Decaffeinated Coffee. While some machines have built-in grinders for whole bean coffee, others may require you to purchase ground coffee with a grind appropriate for the brewing method.
Coffee From Soil to Sip
You can also learn about coffee harvesting and processing, coffee grading and roasting, coffee grinding and packaging, coffee storing, brewing, and all about the coffee beverage itself including Espresso.
Gourmet Coffee Lovers
Learn how to discern all of the fine nuances of coffee flavors and qualities including body, aroma, acidity, bitterness, sweetness, and finish or aftertaste). Also provided is a full description of coffee cupping (professional coffee tasting), and as a bonus you get a compendium of coffee quotes and even a coffee quiz.
Barista Guide For Perfect Espresso Drinks
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Ethiopian Coffee Production
- Crop Year: October 1 to September 30
- 2010 Production: 7,500,000 x 60kg bags
- 2011 Production: 6,798,000 x 60kg bags
- 2012 Production: 6,233,000 x 60kg bags
- 2013 Production: 6,527,000 x 60kg bags
- 2014 Production: 6,625,000 x 60kg bags
Ethiopian Coffee Export Volume
- Crop Year: April 1 to March 31
- 2010 Export: 3,022,000 x 60kg bags
- 2011 Export: 2,832,000 x 60kg bags
- 2012 Export: 3,166,000 x 60kg bags
- 2013 Export: 3,044,000 x 60kg bags
- 2014 Export: 2,872,000 x 60kg bags