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Ethiopia: The Birthplace of Coffee

Ethiopia is a beautiful and wonderful country, especially so for coffee lovers as it is the birthplace of all coffee beans! Ethiopia’s beans and coffee culture are like no other, and today we will learn a little bit more about some of Ethiopia’s most famous coffee beans.

The Beginning of Coffee

Coffee’s origin stories abound and though many are apocryphal, one, in particular, has been elected as the story of choice for the coffee world. That is the tale of Kaldi the goat herder. 

According to this story, Kaldi was tending to his flock of goats when he noticed they were partying around a peculiar tree. The goats pranced, jumped, ran, and played with an intense level of energy and vigour he had never seen before. On closer inspection, he noticed they were all eating red cherries growing from the tree. Kaldi decided to grab a few and brought them to the abbot of the local monastery. The wise abbot boiled the cherries into a tonic and gave the drink a try. The rest is coffee history! The drink became the chosen pick-me-up for the monastery, the town, Ethiopia, then the whole world. 

In fact today there are still so many wild native coffee trees that many of them still defy categorization. Think of that! Forests full of so many coffee plants that people can’t even give them all names and types yet!  

What makes Ethiopia such a great place for coffee has to do with its natural environment. Coffee plants like the Arabica thrive in highlands and mountainous terrain. Area with lots of rain and cool, moist air but in tropical locales. Plus extra points if the soil is volcanic because this allows proper drainage from all that rain while also giving plants lots of nutrients and minerals. Robusta coffee plants on the other hand can thrive nearly anywhere but love lowlands. They excel in dry, hot places, unlike their Arabica cousins. Ethiopia has both types of terrain, and so any coffee grown in Ethiopia comes out spectacular. 

In addition, Ethiopian coffee often undergoes a natural processing method. Another Ethiopian trademark, this method allows the coffee cherries to rot and partially ferment a bit, leaving the beans with an indelibly fruity, deep, and rich mark that come out to play when the beans are brewed. 

One final incredible thing about Ethiopia? It’s coffee culture! Many have heard of Japan’s tea ceremony, well Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony is just as spiritual, uplifting, and moving to witness and be a part of. Conducted by the women of the household, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony includes the burning of incense, heirloom coffee carafes, and a true sense of community. 

Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar, and more!

Ethiopian coffee beans are mostly categorized by their regions. The beans that still transcend categorization and grow in the wild coffee forests are usually marketed as “Heirloom” coffee beans. Heirloom beans are nearly limitless in their diversity, but the main coffee regions tend to have some more uniformity.

Sidamo

Beans from this region enjoy high altitudes, rainfall, and undergo the washed processing method. When enjoying beans from the Sidamo region you will enjoy floral, citrus, a full-body, and crisp yet invigorating acidity.

Yirgacheffe

A sub-region of Sidamo, Yirgacheffe beans are so good they earned their own category! Beans from Yirgacheffe are either washed or naturally processed. As for the flavour and aroma palette, you will be treated to some floral, some fruity, some berry, and some herbiness along with bright acidity.

Harrar

Also known as Oromia, these beans are produced at high elevations and undergo the natural processing method and serve as an excellent example of why this processing method is so superb. The flavour of these beans is often described as a deep, fruity, berry array. Blackcurrant, blueberry, and even red wine come to mind with this rich and intense bean.

Limu

Beans from this region generally undergo the washed processing method and display a vivacious spicy, floral, and sweet flavour and aroma palette that is paired with lower acidity than many of the other regions.

Jimma

The Jimma region serves up some spectacularly fruity coffee beans. Ethiopian beans may have a deep kind of berry or wine type fruitiness or a truly exotic and tropical fruitiness. Jimma offers the second one with some sweet, mango, citrus flavours with a smooth silkiness to boot!

Where it all began

Ethiopian coffee as a whole reflects a sort of microcosm of the whole coffee world. Flavours, aromas, and bodies run the whole flavour wheel gamut from spicy to acidic, to mild, to citrusy. If you are a coffee lover in search of your new favourite bean, Ethiopia has definitely got you covered!