If you’ve ever heard the legend of the goat farmer whose goats ran wild after consuming a strange red fruit, you have already — perhaps unknowingly — been introduced to the widely recognized birthplace of the coffee bean: Ethiopia. This history of coffee in Ethiopia dates back to the 9th century and quickly became and still remains a commodity intertwined in the country’s culture. Partially due to the expansive history of coffee in Ethiopia, as well as the near perfect growing conditions, Ethiopian coffee has become one of the most widely enjoyed coffees around today.
Brief History of Ethiopian Coffee Production
As suggested by the coffee origin legend, the coffee plant is a naturally occurring, indigenous plant in Ethiopia. Of course, over time farmers have intentionally planted more and more coffee farms. But the ideal conditions make it much easier than some other places around the world to successfully cultivate beans with a stellar flavor profile, often without the use of agricultural chemicals.
The processing of Ethiopian coffee beans is done either by sun-drying or wet processing.
In short, sun-dried processing involves spreading all the carefully selected cherries out on raised drying beds and letting them sit in the sun for weeks until they are completely dried out. The beans are then removed from the cherry and they are packaged for exporting.
Wet processing involves using water to separate the fruit from the bean within days of being picked. The beans are then laid out to dry before being exported.
GROWING REGIONS & FLAVOR PROFILES
There are three distinct growing regions that yield largely varied flavor profiles: Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harrar.
|Sidamo||This region is located in the highlands and has the highest-yield of coffee among the growing regions. This is largely due to its high elevation, regular rainfall, fertile soil, and ideal temperatures. These beans are typically rich, medium-full bodied, and complex in flavor. They result in a less acidic cup of coffee and are a staple in many roasteries.|
|Yirgacheffe||Technically a sub-region of Sidamo, Yirgacheffe is known to produce some of the best of all Ethiopian coffees. Nearly all coffee from this region is wet processed, resulting in a light, fruity flavor profile that is highly recognizable and desired among coffee drinkers.
This makes for a delicious, bright cup of coffee. Oftentimes, this is the kind of coffee I will gravitate towards, and pull my Hario V60 out for to highlight those flavor characteristics.
|Harrar||Another region in the highlands of Ethiopia, with smaller coffee farms where all sorting and processing are still done by hand. Mostly all sun-dried, these beans result in a much fuller, more intense flavor profile, often compared to wine. These beans are typically used for espresso rather than single origin.|
Ethiopian coffee deserves all the hype that it receives. Next time you’re in a shop with one of these options, give it a try and see for yourself!