Ethiopian Coffee: Everything You Need To Know About The Birthplace Of Coffee

TOP PICK: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee (Volcanica Coffee)

ethiopian coffee in the mountains

These Ethiopian beans are harvested from wild coffee trees in the heart of coffee's historic birthplace itself! The beans are overloaded with distinctly unique flavors.

This is truly a “try before you die” coffee treat that Volcanica provides at an incredible price, roasting only after you place your order.

Must Know Facts About Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopia: The Source Of Coffee

Ancient Ethiopian history claims that an Ethiopian goat herder, Kaldi, first discovered coffee and its magical benefits around 850 AD. Legend has it that he discovered his goats eating the coffee fruit off of the trees and dancing wildly. He was so fascinated by these "magic" beans that he brought them home with him.

When Kaldi presented their benefits to a monk, he threw the beans in the fire, proclaiming this magic effect was the work of the devil. Of course, the beans began to roast and the whole room was filled with the fragrance of freshly roasted coffee. (The first signs of brewing coffee as a beverage, however, are from much later.)

The original name for coffee, Kaffa, came from the region in southwest Ethiopia where coffee was first discovered in the wild. Unlike almost every other coffee-growing country, coffee trees grow naturally here.

The Perfect Growing Conditions for Coffee Beans

Ethiopia is the original home of coffee. Coffee trees have grown in the wild here for centuries. The environment is perfect to produce amazing coffee, without adding anything to it. More than a thousand different varietals of coffee grow in Ethiopia. High elevations in the southern mountainous region make for excellent growing conditions.

The soil is deep and the vegetation is lush. Most coffees are grown without the use of agricultural chemicals (1) in the shade and among other plants. In contrast, coffee farmers anywhere else in the world have to plant specific types of coffee and create the perfect conditions, like planting additional trees to provide shade for the small coffee trees.

the Flavour profile Of Ethiopian beans: What To Expect

Coffee from Ethiopia is known for its bright fruited and floral flavors. These coffees typically have a higher acidity, light to medium body and complex flavor notes.

The beans are either washed or naturally processed. The processing method used (​2​​​) has a huge impact on the final taste of the coffee. When coffees are wet-processed, or washed, the fruit is removed mechanically right away. These beans are characterized by their flavor clarity, showcasing bright, complex notes. The final cup is very clean tasting.

Naturally processed coffees are dried with the fruit left on the bean. The fruit pulp is not removed until just before export. 

These beans are infused more heavily with fruited notes, such as blueberry, and contain deep chocolate undertones with a syrupy body.

Most coffee from Ethiopia is processed naturally. This is how they’ve done it for centuries, and it hasn’t changed much over time. Wet processing, on the other hand is fairly new and is always changing as new equipment enters the scene.

Honorable Mentions (don't miss these)

Until 1995, Ethiopia was divided into provinces. The country is now divided into districts, but the province name is still commonly used to indicate location. The southernmost province, Sidamo (or Sidama), is where many of the coffee growing areas are located. 

Within the Sidamo region is the beloved Yirgacheffe, a small town whose nearby farms consistently produce some of the best coffees in the world. Many producers in this region of Ethiopia favor the wet processing method. This yields a bright coffee, higher in acidity with a light body and sweet fruity flavor and floral notes.


Another fantastic region is Guji. Located in the south of the Sidamo region, coffee from Guji is sought out by some of the best roasters in the world. In the cup, you can expect sweet floral notes, such as jasmine with melon and peach, and a tea-like body.

Harrar is located in the east of Ethiopia, just east of the capital city of Addis Ababa. This region almost exclusively produces dry-processed coffee. These coffees will be winey, contain wild fruit character and have a syrupy body. Confusingly, some Harrar (or Harar) coffees are labeled as Mocha Harrar, named for the Red Sea port from which some of the finest coffee in the world (including coffee from Yemen) was traditionally shipped.

The Importance Of The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Coffee is so important to Ethiopians that they will literally spend hours each day drinking it. The coffee ceremony is the Ethiopian culture's most important social connection. To be invited is a sign of respect and friendship (3).

"Coffee plays such a heavily ingrained role in Ethiopian culture that it appears in many expressions dealing with life, food and interpersonal relationships. One common saying is "Buna dabo naw". This literally translates to "Coffee is our bread"." - Lindsey Goodwin, Spruce Eats

Each ceremony lasts 2-3 hours, and it’s common for families to enjoy 2-3 of these ceremonies per day. This is an event for the whole family, where even children participate in serving the coffee to the elders. Guests are frequently invited and conversation can range from politics to the local community and more.

Watch this video to see the coffee ceremony in action.

The coffee is roasted fresh in a pan, ground by hand using a tool similar to a mortar and pestle, and brewed slowly in a traditional piece of pottery by boiling over an open fire. The coffee is poured out slowly, to avoid pouring grounds along with the coffee. 

Many take their coffee with a spoonful of sugar, but never with milk. More water is added to the pot and reboiled 2 more times, getting weaker with each brew. Though they may not taste as good, the 2nd and 3rd brews are just as important as the first.

How Large is Ethiopian Coffee Production today?

Ethiopia is the world’s 5th largest coffee producing nation in the world, and the highest producing nation in Africa.

Ethiopia is the 5th largest coffee-producing nation in the world, and the highest producing nation in Africa. Ethiopians consume about half of their country's coffee, exporting only 3.5 million bags out of the 6.5 million produced. Coffee is hugely important to these people.

Most of the coffee produced is by small farmers. Farmers are able to sell their coffee through the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, which was established by the government in 2008. The ECX made it possible for through a standardized procedure.

Once brought to the ECX, coffees from similar regions are mixed together and sold. 

The problem with the ECX is that it makes tracing coffees back to specific farms quite difficult, which is important to specialty coffee roasters.

As of March 2017, however, new policies allow farmers to keep coffees separate before auction and allow for purchase directly through individual washing stations. This will enable companies to seek out better coffee and establish relationships for future coffee purchasing.

This transparency also encourages farmers to invest in their methods and produce better coffees. Since coffees will be sold without being mixed with other beans, it will only yield a price for how good it is. The better it tastes, the higher the price they are likely to fetch.

Tips On How To Brew Coffee from Ethiopia

Automatic Drip

Since coffees from this region tend to be light in body and brighter in acidity, it does best as filter coffee. Using an automatic dripper will produce a great cup, so long as the coffee is roasted and ground fresh. The paper filter will give a lot of clarity to the flavors of the coffee, giving it the perfect amount of acidity and body.

Pour Over

For best results, however, you should try brewing it as a pour over coffee. This allows for more control in the brewing process and slows down the brew enough to pull out the best flavors of the coffee.

Do you prefer washed Ethiopians? I might recommend a Chemex because their thick paper filters yield a cup of coffee with a tea-like body and clean, bright flavor notes.  

How about naturals? Try a V60, with a thinner paper filter to showcase the syrupy body and bright, acidic fruit notes. The Hario, when used with a medium-coarse grind, focuses on the fruity, bright acidity and prevents over-extraction of any bitter elements.

Cold Brew

Due to their fruited and floral notes, Ethiopian beans also make for a wonderful, refreshing cold brew or iced coffee. Smooth with notes of blueberry or peach? Yes, please. Make sure to grind coarsely for cold brew, so as to not over-extract the coffee’s acidity.

You can also brew Ethiopian as an iced pour over, if you like your cold coffee with a little more zing to it. Because you are brewing the coffee hot over ice, it will preserve more of the acidity.

Where To Buy Real, Quality Ethiopian Coffee Beans

Any roaster who claims to be passionate about coffee will carry beans from Ethiopia. So the best place to start would be your local coffee shop or roaster. If you just want to order something quickly online - make sure you choose a roaster that roasts only AFTER you pay. Not before. We've done some research and tried a few companies and here are our picks.

For ease of ordering, quality and price - we recommend Volcanica Coffee's Yirgacheffe beans: - >>> click here to see them. <<<

Try to find a washed and a naturally processed Ethiopian so you can compare.

Coffee is seasonal, however, and there may be times of the year where it becomes harder to find.

IMAGEPRODUCTDESCRIPTION
hg-table__imageEthiopian Yirgacheffe (Volcanica)
  • A Unique wild coffee with exotic, pleasant flavours
  • Amazingly priced
  • Roasted AFTER you order
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageEthiopia Mordecofe (Stumptown Coffee)
  • Classic Ethiopean flavour at its best
  • Available online, or in store (Wholefoods)
  • Floral and Peach
CHECK PRICE →
hg-table__imageSweet Maria's Ethiopian Coffee(unroasted)
  • Green coffee beans (for home roasters)
  • Wide range from different estates
  • Support small local farmers
CHECK PRICE →

Volcanica Coffee is hands down one of our favorite coffee roasters. Why? Because they manage to balance sourcing quality beans that have been ethically grown with low prices, making them accessible to those of us who aren’t rolling in cash!

Case in point: These Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.

The bulk of these beans are gathered from wild coffee trees from the Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia, which is known for its traditional Arabica coffee plant varietals and the floral and fruity flavored coffees they produce. These beans are the perfect showcase for the ruggedly high-quality product the region produces.

A cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is medium-bodied, fruity, sweet and deeply complex. It even manages to bring an ever-so-slightly bitter element to the table without upsetting the cup. Flavors include hints of strawberry, dark chocolate, cedar, and pineapple guava, along with chocolate, lavender, and a "spirits-tinged finish."

These incredibly complex beans are dry-processed. True to Volcanica Coffee’s mission, they are roasted only after you place your order, ensuring they come to your door as fresh and as flavorful as possible.

To top it all off, you won’t be paying an arm and a leg for these elite beans. Volcanica has managed to provide them at a wildly low price, all things considered. This bean made the Homegrounds.co Best beans list.

  • The bulk of this exotic crop is harvested from wild coffee trees
  • Very affordably priced
  • Guaranteed freshness. Volcanica only roasts coffees after you place your order

These Ethiopia Mordecofe beans from Stumptown Coffee comprise some of the most elite Ethiopian beans on the market. Coming from some of the highest forests located in the Guji Zone of Ethiopia just a couple hundred miles from Kenya, these beans grow in the heart of some of the most popular coffee-growing regions in the world.

The producer of the beans, Haile Gebre, runs the two farms under the Mordecofe name “Mora Mora River Valley Development Coffee,” along with a washing station in the region under the same company. Stumptown has managed to keep these enchanting beans available since 2006 in spite of the ups and downs that tend to plague many of the coffee-growing nations in this part of the world – and for that, we’re grateful.

Typical of the beans from the area, the coffee delivers a huge amount of distinct flavor, much of which comes through the floral, sweet aroma which is followed up with a very present note of peach.

Note: This coffee is seasonal, so you’re going to want to check in regularly to see when it comes into stock!
  • From the highest forests of the Guji Zone of Ethiopia, not far from Kenya
  • Floral, sweet aroma and peach flavor
  • Seasonal beans that are not available year round

Sweet Maria’s

Source: Sweet Maria's

Do you like to roast your own coffee? Buy green beans from Sweet Maria's. Tom from Sweet Maria's travels to Ethiopia frequently in order to buy the best beans and to understand why Ethiopia produces such great coffee. On his site, he also offers tips for roasting each coffee for maximum flavor, pictures from each farm and mill, and an in-depth description of where exactly each coffee came from.

Buying from Sweet Maria’s is always a learning experience.


How To Roast Ethiopian Beans

The ideal roast for beans from Ethiopia is a classic medium roast. This will yield the best balance between bright acidity, sweet flavors, and a medium body. If you roast any darker, you would cover up many of the flavors that make Ethiopians great. Many roasters today prefer to roast their Ethiopian beans very lightly. Their goal is flavor clarity. This would yield a tea-like body and would showcase its complex flavors.

Coffee from Ethiopia is best by itself. You don’t want to blend it with other coffee because these beans have so much to offer on their own.

It is best when consumed black. With higher acidity and lighter body, it won’t stand up to milk or sweetener very well. But with enough natural flavor and sweetness in the cup, you won’t mind drinking this coffee black.

Bunawoni Yidesetu (Enjoy Your Coffee)

It’s pretty clear why Ethiopian coffee is so close to the coffee lover’s heart: it’s just that good. It’s a region that produces some of the most unique coffee in the world. It’s where coffee was born.

Now you know a little bit about the history of coffee and about Ethiopia’s coffee industry and what makes these beans unique. Time to put all that knowledge to work and brew some darn good coffee!

Do you have a favorite coffee from Ethiopia? Let us know in the comments what you’ve tried and what you still need to try.

Source: Wikimedia

FAQs

Who brewed coffee first?

Sufi monks in Yemen brewed coffee first. In the 15th century, historical records note that coffee was brewed, and consumed, by Sufi monks to help them keep alert for their religious rituals. By the 16th century, coffee had spread throughout the Middle East, Turkey, Persia, and North Africa. By the mid-17th century, coffee had spread to Europe.

Why is coffee from Ethiopia important?

Coffee from Ethiopia is important to Ethiopian culture because it reflects a sense of community, of participation, and of tradition in which they forge new bonds and strengthen old ones. To the rest of the world, it is important because of its place in history, and because much of it is still harvested from wild coffee trees in their natural habitat.

Is coffee from Ethiopia arabica or robusta?

Coffee from Ethiopia is arabica. Coffea arabica originated in the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia; it is the original coffee cherry tree that has been exported and transplanted around the world.


References

  1. Goodwin, L. (2019, February 06). Ethiopian Coffee Culture - Legend, History and Customs. Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/ethiopian-coffee-culture-765829
  2. Coffees from Africa and Arabia: Ethiopia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.coffeereview.com/coffee-reference/coffee-categories/geographic-origins/coffees-from-africa-and-arabia/ethiopia/
  3. Welcome! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cafeimports.com/?r=Y29mZmVlLXByb2Nlc3Nlcw


 

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Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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