Ethiopian Coffee Overview | Coffee Inside

Womnan with Coffee Adado - Ethiopia by Coffee Inside

Ethiopia is the world’s 5th largest producer of coffee, and Africa’s top producer, with 204.070 metric tonnes in 2015 (produced: 443122 Tonnes). Half of the coffee is consumed by Ethiopians, and the country leads the continent in domestic consumption. The way of production has not changed much, with nearly all work, cultivating and drying, still done by hand. (Source: ICO)

Country Profile

  • Size – 1,104,300 sq km
  • Capital City – Addis Ababa
  • Trade City – Dire Dawa
  • Population – 102,374,044 (May 2017)
  • Language/s Spoken – Amharic (official), Oromo, Somali
Word map coffee coffee in Ethiopia coffeeinside
Word map coffee coffee in Ethiopia coffeeinside

Coffee production in Ethiopia

  • Population Involved in Coffee – Approx. 700,000
  • Average Farm Size – 1 hectare or less
  • Bags Exported Annually – 3.5 million bags

Ethiopia Coffee Profile

  • Growing Regions – Sidama (including Yirgacheffe), Harrar, Limu, Djimma, Lekempti, Wallega, Gimbi
  • Common Varieties – Heirloom Ethiopian varieties including Kudhome, Gesha, Djimma, and others
  • Processing Method  – Washed, Natural
  • Country-Specific Grading – Grades 1–9 (Gr 1–2 specialty; Gr 3–9 commercial)
  • Bag Size – 60 kg
  • Harvest Period – November–February
  • Typical Arrival – May–Jul

History Coffee Ethiopia

The Ethiopian ancestors of today’s Oromo ethnic group were the first to have recognized the energizing effect of the native coffee plant. Studies of genetic diversity have been performed on Coffea arabica varieties, which were found to be of low diversity but with retention of some residual heterozygosity from ancestral materials, and closely related diploid species Coffea canephora and C. liberica. However, no direct evidence has ever been found indicating where in Africa coffee grew or who among the natives might have used it as a stimulant or known about it there earlier than the seventeenth century. The original domesticated coffee plant is said to have been from Harar, and the native population is thought to be derived from Ethiopia with distinct nearby populations in Sudan and Kenya

Legend of Ethiopian Coffee

One account involves a 9th-century Ethiopian goat – herder, Kaldi, who, noticing the energizing effects when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush, chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to a monk in a nearby monastery. But the monk disapproved of their use and threw them into the fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed, causing other monks to come and investigate. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee. Since this story is not known to have appeared in writing before 1671, 800 years after it was supposed to have taken place, it is highly likely to be apocryphal.

Kaldi Dancing Goats Legend of Ethiopian Coffee by CoffeeInside
Kaldi Dancing Goats Legend of Ethiopian Coffee by CoffeeInside

See more World’s Best History of Coffee form Wikipedia

Coffee in Ethiopian Culture

From an outsider’s perspective, this adds to the great complexity that makes Ethiopian coffee so hard to fully comprehend – culturally, politically, and economically as well as simply culinarily. Add to that the fact that the genetic diversity of the coffee here is unmatched globally—there is 99% more genetic material in Ethiopia’s coffee alone than in the entire rest of the world—and the result is a coffee lover’s dream: There are no coffees that are spoken of with the reverence or romance that Ethiopian coffees are.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

During the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an integral part of the daily life of most Ethiopians. The ceremony is typically performed by the woman of the household and is considered an honor. The coffee is brewed by first roasting the green coffee beans over an open flame in a pan. This is followed by the grinding of the beans, traditionally in a wooden mortar and pestle. After grinding, the coffee is put through a sieve several times.

The coffee beans are then placed into the “Jebena” – an earthen coffee po – with boiling water, and at this time a slight amount of spices may be added including cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon… The host pours the coffee for all participants by moving the tilted boiling pot over a tray with small, handleless cups from a height of one foot without stop until each cup is full

See more Ethiopia Coffee Ceremony from Wikipedia

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.

  • Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
  • Ethiopian Sidama
  • Ethiopian Harrar

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.

Less common regions include: Guji, Kaffa, Tepi, Welayta, Bebeka, Borena, Arsi,..

** About Ethiopian place names: There is much confusion and inconsistency where place names are concerned in Ethiopia, partially due to the fact that Amharic does not use a Roman alphabet like English does. Therefore, it is not necessarily incorrect to spell the region as Yirgacheffe, Yirgachefe, or even Yirga Chefe.

“Sidamo” is a somewhat disparaging variant on the place name, and we have decided to use the more acceptable “Sidama” instead.

Coffee processing in Ethiopia

There are several ways coffee is prepared for market in Ethiopia. Large estates are privately owned and operated by hired labor; the coffee is often picked, processed, and milled on the property. On the other end of the spectrum, “garden coffee” is brought by a farmer in cherry form to the closest or most convenient washing station, where it is sold and blended with other farmers’ lots and processed according to the desires of the washing station. Co-op members will bring their cherry to be weighed and received at a co-op washing station, where there is more traceability to the producer level as per membership rosters of the co-operative.

The profile of Ethiopian coffees will vary based on a number of factors, including variety, process, and microregion. As a general rule of thumb, natural processed coffees will have much more pronounced fruit and deep chocolate tones, often with a bit of a winey characteristic and a syrupy body. Washed coffees will be lighter and have more pronounced acidity, though the individual characteristics will vary.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established by the Ethiopian government in 2008 with the intention of democratizing marketplace access to farmers growing beans, corn, coffee, and wheat, among other commodities. As farmers in Ethiopia typically own very small plots of land and are largely sustenance farmers—growing what crops they need for household use and selling the surplus for cash—it was decided that standardization would be the most egalitarian way to improve economic health and stability in the agricultural sector.

In March 2017, the ECX voted to allow direct sales of coffee from individual washing stations, which will not only allow for increased traceability, but will also allow for repeat purchases and relationship building all along the chain—a change that increases the potential for higher prices to the farmers. It remains to be seen what the impact of greater traceability and more direct sales will have on specialty coffees from Ethiopia, but the industry appears optimistic.

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