The emergence of Ethiopian coffees is a remarkable event in the recent history of the industry. Despite being the birthplace of the coffee plant, and still having its greatest biodiversity, Ethiopian coffees didn’t gain the spotlight as early as other coffee-producing countries, like Brazil or Colombia.
The third wave of coffee brought with it an appreciation of lighter, gentler and more flavorful cups of coffee, which is the area where most Ethiopian coffees shine. Ethiopia has then earned its rightful place as one of the countries producing the best coffees in the world, with increasing experts’ acclaim and commercial success.
A large part of Ethiopia's income from foreign trade is thanks to coffee exporting: up to 60% of the total. This is an amazing achievement for a country that has seen its share of wars and economic crisis in the last decades.
Coffee has always held an integral part in Ethiopian culture. The “coffee ceremony”, where guests are welcomed with a three-times boiled coffee, in a ritualistic-like manner, is famous and has a long tradition throughout Ethiopia to this very day. Coffee has been harvested and processed in Ethiopia since nearly a millennium, and it is of no wonder that it is thus rich in diversity and extremely ingrained in the local culture.
Speaking of this diversity of Ethiopian coffees, one of the reasons for its recent success is that coffee beans grown in the Ethiopian regions have had centuries to develop, compared to just 1-2 in most other countries, and present thus a richness and range of flavors that is unparalleled. Over that long time the coffee plant has had the time to develop, naturally or with the help of farmers, and show a larger array of characteristics.
Nowadays the whole western and southern zones of Ethiopia produce quality coffee, highly sought-after. The best known zones are Yirgacheffe, Harrar and Sidamo, with the former being actually a sub-region of the latter. These are by far the most commonly found among bars and roasters. Plenty of others do exist though, like Ghimbi, Limu, Guji, Lekempti, Djimmah. Some are actual regions in Ethiopia while others are just coffee origins within a larger region. The variety of producing zones means also a great variety of flavors, even within the same political division of regions, which is the main quality for which Ethiopian coffees are known for. From the Yirgacheffe area, coffees can be citrusy, light-bodied and fruity, while the nearby Guji coffee can taste like almond butter, maple syrup and roasted cocoa nibs. An amazing difference in a closer range. The adjacent region of Sidamo has another yet taste profile, with darker notes of chocolate, dark fruits and hints of jasmine. This one presents a richer body than most other Ethiopian coffees, proving that Ethiopia isn’t just a land of light-bodied and fruity coffees.
Moving among the regions of coffee production in Ethiopia means doing a voyage among some of the most distinct notes and flavors. Ethiopian coffees gained popularity thanks to the investments of roasters around the world and big companies for this extreme diversity, allowing the Ethiopian coffees to earn a cup of excellence awards and scoring high in the valuations of experts.