Ethiopia is often cited as the cradle of humankind, and the birthplace of coffee. A breathtakingly beautiful country, Ethiopia is one of the most ecologically and culturally diverse countries in the world. It is the one of the largest and most populated countries in Africa with over 100 languages spoken throughout the population, 80% of whom live rurally. Ethiopia is landlocked, bounded by Eritrea to the North, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and South Sudan and Sudan to the west. Its rich topography and diverse smallholder agricultural culture, alongside a robust coffee heritage, creates ideal conditions for some incredible coffee.
It is not fully understood how or when coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, as different fables of first encounters with the plant tell of different origins, however It is thought coffee culture, cultivation and export dates back to at least the 15th century. What is certain, however, is that Ethiopia’s heritage in coffee is abundant and still holds vast cultural significance for the country, with half of the 6.5 million bag production being consumed domestically.
|Annual production:||3.8 million bags|
|Altitude range:||1300 - 2200 masl|
|No coffee farmers:||700,000|
|Harvest times:||October - January|
|Key growing regions:||Sidamo, Harrar, Guji, Yirgacheffe, Jimma, Limu|
|Grading system:||Sold by region and Grades (1-9), with 1-2 as Specialty and 3-9 as Commercial|
|Processing type:||Washed and Natural|
Today coffee is still grown predominantly in the wild and is cultivated amongst forest environments, which provides complexity in ecosystem and, therefore, quality. This is known as ‘forest coffee’, however coffee is also grown in cultivated ‘gardens’ and on some larger estates. Smallholder farmers account for 95% of production, each with little more than 1 hectare of land. Coffee in Ethiopia is classified by region and grade by the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), as a part of quality assurance and marketing practices. The main coffee growing areas are Lekempt, Jimma, Limu, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, Guji and Harrar, which stretch throughout the southern parts of the country. Each of these regions comprise numerous ‘woredas’, or districts, and ‘kebeles’, towns. Dotted throughout Ethiopia’s kebeles are washing stations where smallholders deliver coffee cherries and whose name most coffee is marketed under. Most varieties cultivated in Ethiopia are referred to as Heirloom Varieties, those that have developed over many, many years in the natural forest environments. Certain larger farms have started to cultivate single varieties, notably Geisha and Moka.
The primary processing methods in Ethiopia are Washed and Natural, both of which have had long term desirability on the global market for their cup complexity and clarity.