About Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopian Coffee Guide

Ethiopia is the origin of coffee and is home to some of the most distinctive flavors in the entire globe. Although there are between 6 and 10,000 distinct types of Ethiopian coffee, they are typically distinguished by their region, altitude, and cupping score.
Learn about Ethiopian coffee’s history, flavors, regions, and preparation methods in this guide. Prepare to travel all the way back to the beginning of that deliciously dark beverage we all like!

The History of Ethiopian Coffee

The narrative of how coffee was discovered in Ethiopia is a fascinating fusion of fact and fiction. The line between mythology and history is unclear, but the majority of specialists agree that Ethiopia is the only country in the world where coffee is grown naturally.
A goat herder by the name of Kaldi allegedly discovered that his goats were consuming cherries that gave them boundless vitality. He took the choice to give some of the cherries to some nearby monks in the hopes that they might be able to explain to him why they made his goats so lively.
The monks burned the cherries after seeing them because they thought they might have evil power in them. However, when they started to burn, the aroma they released was so alluring that the monks made the decision to take them out of the fire, grind them up, and put them in a vessel of water. The art of drinking coffee was created when the monks later drank the first batch.

Where Does Coffee Come From?

Did Ethiopia produce the first coffee? Yes, the Kaffa region in southwest Ethiopia is where the coffee plant originated.
Ethiopia’s Kafa Zone is home to the Kafa Biosphere Reserve. This region is where coffee was initially identified. Additionally, it is currently home to nearly 5,000 wild Arabica coffee varieties, according to UNESCO.

Branding and Trademarks for Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopian coffee producers, importers, and even the national government of Ethiopia have established networks, branding initiatives, and trademarks to market and safeguard the product’s distinctiveness.
The most well-known court case involved Starbucks v. Ethiopia. These three Ethiopian coffee brands, Harar, Sidamo, and Yirgacheffe, have to be licensed.

9 Ethiopian Coffee Grading Categories

Ethiopian coffee beans are graded 1 through 9 by visual inspection for any defects and cup quality.
• 1-2: Specialty grade
• 3-9: Commercial grade

6 Ethiopian Coffee Regions

There are six major coffee regions in Ethiopia, though it is important to note that there are also sub-regions that go by their own name simply because they are trademarked. Below we’ll outline the six major regions and point out the trademarks included in them.


Sidama: This is the area where coffee is thought to have its roots. It is grown between 4,920 and 7,220 feet above sea level in the highlands. This indicates that the beans are “strictly high grown” (SHG) and have had more time to ingest nutrients from the soil, which can produce a unique flavor character.

The citrus, berry, and lemon aromas in Sidama’s coffee beans give the beans a more acidic flavor while yet retaining a medium body. If you ever see Yirgacheffe and Guji coffee marketed as separate regions, please be aware that Sidama also comprises those types of coffee.


Although it is mentioned above, Yirgacheffe is too significant to leave off this list. One of the best coffees in the world is thought to come from Yirgacheffe. It is wet processed and grows at a height of about 2,000 meters.


Guji: Coffee from the Guji zone originates in southeast Ethiopia. The coffee produced by heirloom varieties is robust and full-flavored. In 2002, the Guji coffee zone was established and given the name of an Oromian tribe.

The Guji zone’s coffee has a unique terroir that distinguishes it from the wider Oromia region. Dark chocolate, flowery, and an acidity that is pleasantly tangy are all flavor notes.


Another of the oldest coffee beans that is still grown today is the Harar kind. It is still manually sorted and processed, and it is grown in Ethiopia’s eastern highlands.

Its flavor profile is often regarded to feature undertones of fruit, wine, and mocha. In contrast to Sidamo, it is regarded as being more balanced and full-bodied and not for being particularly acidic.


Genika: These are only grown in Ethiopia’s Bench Maji Zone. As a result, they are known as beans of “single origin.” These tiny, grayish-gray coffee beans have a distinctive scent and a chocolate flavour with notes of spice and wine.


Limu: Wet-processed Limu coffee beans are renowned for their mild acidity. The Oomia Region of Ethiopia’s Limmu Sakka area (woredas) is where Limu coffee is produced. West of Addis Abeba is where it’s located.

Three categories of Ethiopian coffee beans

Coffee Arabica beans from Ethiopia fall into one of three categories:

  •    Longberry: The longest and best-quality berry is the long berry.
  •     Shortberry: Smaller than a long berry but nevertheless regarded as being of good quality.
  •     Mocha: Small but packed with a complex flavor profile, mochas have notes of acidity, spice, and even chocolate.

How Ethiopian Coffee Beans Are Processed

Ethiopian coffee beans are processed either by sun-drying them or washing them.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Sun-drying: The cherries are first sorted by hand so that only the denser and higher-quality ones move on to the next step.
    They are then placed on raised drying beds made of wood posts that are covered in burlap or nylon netting and set out in the sun for weeks to dry. Finally, they are milled to remove the husks and packaged for sale.
  • Wet Processing: The cherries are placed in water for sorting, as the less dense cherries will float and the denser ones will sink. They use eco-pulpers to remove the skin to get to the parchment coffee.
    Next, they remove mucilage by keeping the parchment coffee in a fermentation tank for two or three days. Once that is finished the coffee is placed in a soaking tank for twelve hours then put on a raised bed to dry for around two weeks.
    They sort through the dried coffee to find any beans that have been damaged and send the good ones to a warehouse for dry processing. Finally, it is packaged and ready to sell.

Processing coffee berries is very labor-intensive. The berries and beans are handled numerous times before making it to market.

What Does Ethiopian Coffee Taste Like?

Ethiopian coffee is notorious for having a flowery taste with hints of wine as well as a slight berry aftertaste.

Depending on the region, they are medium to high in acidity, light to medium in body, and varied in their flavor notes.

The reason why they have so many fruity, wine-like and flowery flavors, is mainly due to the fact the beans are often dried while still contained within the cherry fruit of the coffee plant.

Here’s what a small coffee shop in Addis Ababa looks like. And how coffee is served in a jebena over hot charcoal. Notice how the coffee is ground by hand.


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around Yetebaberut Gas Station
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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