Origins: Ethiopia


Overview

Altitude Range: 1500 – 2200 MASL 

Language Spoken: Amharic

Harvest:  November – February

Annual Coffee Production: 6,600,000 bags (Crop 2013)

Common Varieties: Arabica, native heirloom varieties.

Avg Farm Size: In general, small plantations. 

General Cup Profile

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee, and is home to some of the most diverse varieties on the planet. Due to this the cup profile can vary drastically, but certain regions produce coffees which are distinctive. Yirgacheffe is traditionally known for its perfumey jasmine, floral, and citrusy characteristics. Naturally processed coffees from Yirgacheffe have proved themselves to be an amazing alternative to the traditional offerings from Harrar and Sidama. The cup profile is the beautiful simplicity of Yirgacheffe with strawberries and cream thrown in the mix, while Harrar/Sidama is known to be clasically more jammy and wild with a distinct blueberry note.

Growing Regions

Sidama

Located in the south of Ethiopia, the Sidama region offers great-quality coffee. Sidama’s coffees have lemon-citric tones with bright acidity. “Ethiopia Sidama” is a type of Arabica coffee grown in the Sidama Province of Ethiopia. Sidama coffee includes Yirgacheffe Coffee and Guji Coffee.

  • Yirgacheffe: Located in central southern Ethiopia, Yirgacheffe is a small area within the Sidama region which is famous for its coffee quality.

Harrar

Dry, hot, and desert climates are the characteristics of this region, yet the coffee is very unique in taste. “Ethiopian Harrar” is an Arabica variety that is grown in the region of Harrar located in the Eastern highlands. It is one of the oldest coffee types produced in the world. The coffee is washed and sun dried. When the drying process is finished, they hand process the parchment coffee in order to obtain the best quality.

Limu and Djimmah  

Western Ethiopia: Coffee is processed in two methods here: “Limu” stands for washed coffee, and “Djimmah” stands for natural process.

Lekempti, Wellega, and Gimbi

Western Ethiopia: This area has a much different profile than the traditional washed Yirgacheffe. We see a generally much sweeter cup with less distinctive delicate citric acidity, and more big sweet stone fruit. 

Processing

Washed and natural. 

Unique Systems

Ethiopia Commodities Exchange

The ECX was started in 2008 to help protect farmers from market forces that might prevent them from making a living. Bumper crops often lead to big price drops, which can make it unprofitable for farmers to harvest their coffee. What the ECX does is commoditize grains—including sesame, beans, maize, wheat, and, most importantly, coffee. This ensures prompt payment to farmers. It also integrates all parts of the “ecosystem” involved in a grains market, including warehousing, grading, trading, and payment. Access to information is emphasized, as farmers can obtain information about trading prices and local delivery points easily through dedicated telephone lines.

Here is a general rundown of how the ECX chain works in Ethiopia:

  • Farmers deliver cherry to local wet mills. Some wet mills pay a premium for better-quality cherry, some do not.
  • The wet mill then delivers parchment coffee to a delivery station warehouse. In Yirgacheffe, this delivery station is in Dila.
  • Coffees are labeled with a region, and then are graded based both on physical qualities as well as cup quality. Higher-quality coffee fetches a higher price.
  • An exporter then purchases the coffee through the ECX. The coffee that this exporter purchases will, at most, be labeled as “Yirgacheffe: Konga” or “Sidama: Borena.”
  • Once a specific lot is purchased, it is then shipped to the buyer (typically an exporter in Ethiopia).

While this system does ensure prompt payment and streamlines supply chain issues, it removes essentially all traceability from the coffee. This is problematic in the specialty world, where traceability is paramount.

The ECX does not allow for complete traceability, but coffee cooperatives in Ethiopia do have the ability to go around the ECX and export the coffee themselves. Coffees that are exported by a cooperative can have traceability, possibly even to a single farmer.

Cooperatives

  • Sigiga Cooperative (1600–2500 masl):
    • District: Kochere
    • Members: 1,862
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT, UTZ and Organic
  • Finchewan Cooperative (1450–2000 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 1,271
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Konga Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 1,556
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Hafursa Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 1,975
    • Estimated green-coffee production: 798,000 kg
    • Average Farm Size: Up to 4 hectares, with an estimated volume of 600 kg/ha.
    • The organization owns the washing station
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Resa Cooperative (1000-1400 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 2,719
    • Two processing units are available in the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Addis Katema (1000–1400 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 891
    • The washing station is own by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Biloya Cooperative (1600–2500 masl):
    • District: Kochere
    • Members: 1,203
    • Two available processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Worka Cooperative (1650–2700 masl):
    • District: Gebed
    • Members: 305
    • Estimated green-coffee production: 457,000 kg
    • Average Farm Size: Up to 4 hectares with an estimated volume of 699 kg/ha.
    • The processing unit is owned by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Koke Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yigarcheffe
    • Members: 828, and 1 processing unit
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT, UTZ and Organic
  • Hama Cooperative (1600–2500 masl):
    • District: Kochere
    • Members: 1,505, and 1 processing unit
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Chichu Cooperative (1410–2000 masl):
    • District: Dila
    • Members: 1,675
    • Average Farm Size: Up to 4 hectares with an estimated volume of 591 kg/ha
    • The processing unit is owned by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red Brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Michile Cooperative (1410–2000 masl):
    • District: Dila
    • Members: 1,206
    • Average Farm Size: Up to hectares with an estimated volume of 592 kg/ha
    • The processing unit is owned by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red Brown soil
    • Certifications: FT, UTZ and Organic
  • Hase Haro Cooperative (1450–2000 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 1,519
    • Two processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Dumerso Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 246
    • Two processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Tumticha Cooperative (1410–2000 masl):
    • District: Dila
    • Members: 960
    • Two processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Aramo Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 2,254
    • Two processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Edido Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 1,044
    • One processing unit is available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Adame Cooperative (1000–1400 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 533
    • One processing unit is available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Belekara Cooperative (1000–1400 masl):
    • District: Wenago
    • Members: 685
    • One processing unit is available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Dama Cooperative (1410–2000 masl):
    • District: Dila
    • Members: 1,957
    • Two processing units are available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Adado Cooperative (1200–1700 masl):
    • District: Bule
    • Members: 1,128
    • One processing unit is available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Haru Cooperative (1750–2300 masl):
    • District: Yirgacheffe
    • Members: 1,187
    • One processing unit is available at the location
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Bankodhadhato; N/A data
  • Chichu Cooperative (1410–2000 masl):
    • District: Dila
    • Members: 1,675
    • Average Farm Size: Up to 4 hectares with an estimated volume of 591 kg/ha
    • The processing unit is owned by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Worka Cooperative (1650–2700 masl):
    • District: Gebeb
    • Members: 305
    • Average Farm Size: Up to 4 hectares with an estimated volume of 599 kg/ha
    • The processing unit is owned by the cooperative
    • Soil characteristics: Red brown soil
    • Certifications: FT and Organic
  • Michel cooperative: N/A data

Production History

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee, and one of the finest coffee-producing countries in the world.  The legend of how coffee was discovered tells the story of a goat breeder discovering coffee by watching his goats act strange after eating the fruits of an unfamiliar tree. He took the fruit's seeds to the nearest monastery, where the monks prepared a tea from them. The monks then felt very energetic and stayed awake all night long. After the monks discovered the effect of the beans, the news was shared from monastery to monastery. Coffee was then transported from Ethiopia to Egypt and Yemen and so on. 

Looking Forward

With the introduction of the ECX, many thought the days of spectacular Ethiopians might be gone. We have seen some amazing lots through exporters that are willing to take care in how they dry mill their coffee after buying it from the ECX, both washed and natural. Our export partners own their own mills, so we are able to get some coffees like Grade 1 naturals, which used to be very rare. 

We are very invested in some projects with co-ops in Ethiopia as well. YCFCU is a longtime partner of Café Imports, and we have been able to secure farmer specific lots from them for the past several years. Jason Long of Café Imports was the earliest adopter of this concept with YCFCU, and we are proud to be able to pay extra premiums directly to the producers for these lots. 

The future of Ethiopia is bright. We hope to continue to see incredible ECX lots and FTO Coop lots and keep building the market for these coffees.