Ethiopia is a large, landlocked country in the eastern Horn of Africa. It is home to a varied geographical subregion with dry sandy deserts to the east and lush tropical jungles in the west. However, one of the defining characteristics of Ethiopia's terrain is its high elevation.  The Great Rift Valley cuts right through the heart of Ethiopia with some of the most prized coffees grown throughout this region. Home to more than 80 different languages and unique cultures, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa which was not colonized by Europeans.

 

Ethiopia is the home of Arabica coffee and its people have been drinking coffee longer and more consistently than any other people on Earth. There are various legends on how coffee came to be cultivated, but we know for certain that coffee as a drink has been around for well over 500 years. From modern roasters and coffee houses in the capital of Addis Ababa, to simple pan roasted coffees in a rural hamlet, Ethiopians of all classes enjoy the brew. So it goes without saying that coffee culture has and continues to be deeply rooted in culture and tradition throughout Ethiopia.

 

Currently there are approximately 9 geographical regions within Ethiopia that produce coffee including Harrar(Harar), Sidama(Sidamo), Yirgacheffe, Limu, Djimmah(Jimma), Kaffa(Bonga), Nekempti(Lekempti), Wellega and Bebeka. And with thousands of wild varieties still unknown, Ethiopian heirlooms are either consistent year after year or completely take us by surprise with nuanced flavor profiles.

 

The Ethiopian Coffee Exchange(ECX) was created in 2008 as a platform to reduce price volatility for coffee producers and sellers alike. The exchange was thought to be a more modern, centralized trading system. Over the years, it has tried to improve transparency and advance the producers ability to distinguish their coffee from others. But the system has been met with challenges and producer(exporter) pushback.

 

In 2017, it was announced that the Ethiopian Coffee Authorities would modify the current system allowing exporters with valid export licenses to directly sell their coffee to international buyers. These mechanisms weren't put into place until the 2021 harvest season.

Coffee Regions of Ethiopia

Harrar is the easternmost producing region in Ethiopia and includes the area of East Harrar, West Harrar, Bale and Arsi. The territory extends through a desert frontier with Somalia to the east.  Coffee is grown in clusters through the highlands.  Because of a dryer climate, all Harrar coffees are processed as Naturals.  There are several heirloom varieties that grow specifically in this region and have cupping characteristics of blueberries, floral aromatics and nuts.

Sidamo(Sidama) is a region in southern Ethiopia.  It includes the prominent areas of Yirgacheffe and Guji on the border of Harrar's Bale and Arsi districts.  Sidamo lies in the Great Rift Valley then runs from Ethiopia to Kenya.  With lush green forests, these areas are densely populated with the largest town, Hawassa, being the pit-stop for most coffee traders visiting farms during the harvesting season.  Given the size of this region, Sidamo has a wide range of coffee characteristics.  It produces both washed and natural coffees that have distinct flavors of strawberries, tropical fruits and floral notes.

Yirgacheffe is a small micro-region of Greater Sidamo but it is important to highlight that it produces some of Ethiopia's most sought after coffees each year.  The area of Yirgacheffe has a population of about 20,000 and produces coffees that are generally labeled under Wenago, Kochere or Galana Abaya. Top Yirgacheffe microlots are bright in flavor profiles with florals, citrus and bright acidity showing throughout.

Limu and Jimma coffees grow in the southwest region of Ethiopia.  Coffees from Limu are usually washed with mild acidity and balanced cup profiles while those from Jimma are all natural processed giving microlots notes of fermented fruits, black tea and tobac. 

Nekempti(Lekempti) is about 6 hours west of Addis Ababa.  Home to Ethiopia's largest tribe, the Oromo, coffees produced from this region are typically sun-dried naturals with profiles full of intense florals and fermented fruits.

Producers in Focus

Halo Beriti Washing Station

Halo Beriti Washing Station was established in 2014 and serves 750 smallholder producers, who deliver their coffee in cherry form.

 

Coffees in Ethiopia are typically traceable to the washing station level, where smallholder farmers—many of whom own less than 1/2 hectare of land, and as little as 1/8 hectare on average—deliver cherries by weight to receive payment at a market rate. The coffee is sorted and processed into lots without retaining information about whose coffee harvest is in which bag or lot. 

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Kanyon Mountain Estate

Although the Kanyon Mountain Farm was only established in 2012, members of the estate come from generations of coffee producers who have been selling their coffees through the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange(ECX) for decades.  Located in Oromia's Shakiso region, Kanyon Mountain is spread over a mountainous 500 hectares of land producing 300 tonnes of coffee each harvest season. 

 

Our natural Ethiopians undergo a great amount of care to ensure the highest quality cup.  Workers at Kanyon Mountain ferment naturals up to 36 hrs before allowing them to slowly dry between 12-20 days.  This slow drying process allows for the heirloom varieties to cure, locking in complex tropical and fruity flavors which Guji Naturals are known for across the world.  

Chelchele - Kochere Washing Station

This coffee comes from the Chelchele washing station, which is in the kebele, or village, of Chelchele, in the words, or district, of Kochere, in the Yirgacheffe region. Chelchele coffees tend to have a nice backbone of sweetness from toffee and/or soft nuts like almond, with a floral and citrus overtone.

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