Coffee is a way of life in Ethiopia – no, really. With over two-thirds of this beautiful country’s income coming from coffee sales and exports, and the very real suspicion that Ethiopia is coffee’s birthplace, this little bean is important in a pretty big way to this African country. The term “coffee bean” may even originate from Ethiopia as a result of a mispronunciation long ago of the name of the region Kaffa and the Ethiopian word for coffee bun. Coffee is so deeply entrenched in Ethiopian culture that traditional coffee ceremonies, which often last several hours and whose guests are in high regard, are even held. You can view a video of one of these ceremonies at the link below (well worth the watch).
The Arabica coffee bean, native to Ethiopia, is grown in three main regions: Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe. Each region boasts their own unique style and flavor of coffee:
Sidamo – The beans produced in this region are small and grey, but don’t let them fool you. These beans pack a unique spicy, yet light flavor, and a delicious floral aroma.
Yirgacheffe – Considered to be the best of the Ethiopian coffee productions among most coffee drinkers, the coffee from this region is bold and rich with an amazing aroma.
Harar – Red wine enthusiasts will love the coffee from this region as it is known to have a unique fruity flavor that resembles red wine in some aspects. Also sometimes referred to as mocha, this coffee is strong, dry, and more acidic – but absolutely delicious. Interestingly enough in regards to the wine taste, Ethiopian coffee harvests vary in flavor from year to year, much like wine. This has to do with environmental aspects and the changing grow conditions.
While these regions produce the most popular and well known coffee, lesser known (but just as delicious) coffees are also produced througout the country. Ghimbi, for instance, has a yummy chocolate tasting coffee that is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Bean processing in Ethiopia is done one of two ways: washed or dry processing. In wet processing, also referred to as washed coffee, the coffee cherries are placed in water, where the good fruit will sink and the bad fruit will rise to the top. The the skin and some of the cherry is then removed before it is dried. Dry processing, or natural coffee, consists of the cherries being sorted for ripeness and then placed in the sun to dry. Both processes contribute to distinct flavors of coffee – those looking to enjoy a smooth flavored and light coffee should try the wet-processed beans, while those looking for a bolder and stronger coffee will be happiest with dry-processed beans.
In the end, the perfect cup of coffee you seek can be found in one of the many coffee varieties Ethiopia has to offer. After all, if you can’t trust coffee’s country of origin to provide a good cup – who can you trust?