Country Profile: Ethiopia

Regarded as the birthplace of coffee, the country of Ethiopia is home to a mysterious, fascinating and astonishing world of coffee experiences and flavours. Although it is believed that Coffee Arabica made its first appearance in Southern Sudan, it was in Ethiopia that the coffee variety was first consumed by humans as a fruit Ethiopia then started exporting coffee in the 1600s. 

In fact, coffee’s origin story involves a goat herder who noticed the goats eating berries from a particular tree, and then started to behave in a strange way. The farmer then took the berries to a monastery, where monks brewed the berries and produced the world’s first cup of coffee. 

The coffee production in Ethiopia also had interesting origins, as the earliest harvests were from wild coffee trees in the regions of Kaffa and Buno, rather than harvesting from plantations. It is these wild varieties that lend a distinct wildness to the acidity, not to mention a complex and winey character to the flavour. 

Today, the coffee growing regions in Ethiopia have become some of the most renowned coffee regions in the world; producing a specialty coffee that harnesses indigenous and wild Arabica varieties, thereby strengthening coffee with a promising and exciting future! 

Here’s a quick rundown on three key regions in the home country of coffee: Ethiopia. 

Sidama

Along with Harrar and Yirgacheffe, the region of Sidama was trademarked by the Ethiopian government in 2004, to bring more recognition to the distinct coffees produced in these areas. The coffee from Sidama is known to be some of the highest coffee grown in the country. The coffee itself is processed using washed and natural techniques, producing a coffee with a rich body, a crisp acidity, and a flavour with spice and citrus notes. 

Yirgacheffe

Yirgacheffe has a long-standing reputation of producing some exceptional washed coffees, full of floral and fruity notes, explosive aromas and a light body. The naturally processed coffees also receive positive attention (and high premiums) from consumers and industry professionals alike. 

Harrar

Surrounding the small town of Harrar, this region has been one of the oldest areas for producing coffee in Ethiopia. The subtropical environment results in extra irrigation for the production, resulting in a distinctly different coffee character. Harrar coffee is grown at an altitude of 1500 - 2000 meters above sea level. Harrar coffee is also dry-processed (natural process), compared to Yirgacheffe coffee which is wet-processed (washed process). The dry process is a key contributor to the flavour of the coffee, as it imparts the flavour of the fruit into the bean.

Coffee Map

Map of coffee regions in Ethiopia
Image by Cafe Imports