Coffees of Ethiopia

October 8, 2008 at 7:15 am | Posted in Coffee Info, The Coffee | 1 Comment

Because I am drinking a nice Ethiopian cappuccino this morning, I thought I would post something about this amazing coffee region. This is by no means a comprehensive education, just a quick overview of Ethiopia’s best coffee producing regions.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee, and Ethiopians have been drinking coffee longer than anyone else. Coffee is the national drink, with over 50% of the country’s production internally consumed. Wild coffee trees still grow below the canopy of forests in southern and southwestern Ethiopia (Anyone had our Organic Ethiopian Wild Limu?). The coffee trees’ natural diversity makes them a unique repository for selection and breeding around the world. Around 25% of the Ethiopian population is involved with coffee production, which represents over 50% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Here’s a look at the different regions coffee is grown. All of these coffees can be found at Urban Grounds, depending on seasons and availability.

Coffee is grown over a wide area, from the southwestern to the southern and eastern regions. By far the two most recognized of these are Harrar, to the east, and Sidamo, in the south. There could not be two more different coffees than those produced by these regions.

Harrar is a natural processed coffee and provides a preferred flavor profile of the Middle East: medium-bodied, acidic, winy, even “wild”, a euphemism for bearing the traces of vinegary fermented fruit. (I refer to Harrar as a rustic coffee, borrowing from modern wine terminology) This coffee is often “enhanced” in the Middle East with cardamom and other ingredients. Since production is limited and demand in Middle Eastern centers is great, prices for Harrar can be quite high.

Sidamo, to the south, on the other hand, specializes in washed coffee. These coffees are delicate and can attain a unique floral aroma. Within the region of Sidamo lies the valley-town of Yirgacheffe. The heart of the Yirgacheffe Valley; Yirga means “let it settle” and cheffe means marsh. It is the coffee from the slopes bordering this valley that Ethiopian coffee attains the fullest expression of terroir. No other coffee in the world has its perfumed, sweet, lemon-apricot aroma. It has been prized by coffee blenders since cultivation began after World War II.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Enjoyed this post very much. In fact, I never realized how much the flavor of coffee was affected by the region in which it was grown. Very interesting.

    And, I really enjoyed my recent visit to Urban Ground. The coffee and the people were great.


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