Ethiopia Unroasted-Coffee Expectations
Ethiopian Unroasted-Coffee Beans is a high quality coffee; Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, a large land-locked country in Africa and grows and exports only arabica coffee. Its origin is Ethiopia (kingdom of Kaffa) where the bush grew wild where the plant is called bunno. The Arabs referred to coffee as quwwah (strength) and in Ethiopia (Kaffa) the coffee bean is referred to as Kaffa bunno, hence the Anglicised term coffee beans. Ethiopia is the cradle and birth place of coffee although the original wild bush is a rarity in modern coffee genetics.
However, coffees from the different growing regions vary incredibly. The high elevation of Ethiopia (1,500+ meters) qualify all Ethiopian green coffees as Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Bean (SHB). Coffees that are SHG grow slower because of the altitude, resulting in more nutrients being delivered to the coffee beans and making them denser and more flavourful, i.e. intense flavors and aromatics. Coffee has been growing in Ethiopia for thousands of years, in the forests of southeastern Ethiopia. It is perfectly adapted to the climate. This is the immense advantage that Ethiopia has over all other coffee-producing countries.
Naturally processed Ethiopian coffee beans are syrupy in body with dense and sweet berry flavour (blueberry/ strawberry) with the washed coffees exhibiting a lemon/ citrus-grass, being lighter and dryer in the mouth.
Yirgacheffe is a small micro-region within the much larger region of Sidama. However, Yirgacheffe coffees are so distinct and so well-recognized internationally that they are grouped into their own special category.
Ethiopian Yirgacheffes are amazing and unique coffees from the Sidama region of Ethiopia delivering full-bodied (spicy, fragrant) and complex cups, fruit flavors, a bright acidity, and a silky mouthfeel are some of its hallmarks. These coffees have delicate body, sweet flavor and floral, tangerine and exotic toasted coconut notes. A Yirrgacheffe is incomparable, some of the highest rated in the world. The best unwashed coffees from Yirgacheffe often retain a high degree of acidity, with softer fruit flavors and sometimes berry characteristics. Coffees from the Yirgacheffe town in the Sidama region bear floral and tangerine notes with Yirgacheffe providing strong exotics/ tropical notes of toasted coconut.
All commercial grade coffee, washed and unwashed, graded 3 through 9, is simply called Yirgacheffe A or Yirgacheffe B.
- Yirgachefe A: Yirgachefe, Wenago, Kochere, Gelena/Abaya
- Yirgachefe B: Yirgachefe, Wenago, Kochere, Gelena/Abaya
Harar (Harrar/ Hararge) is the easternmost of the coffee-growing regions of Ethiopia, sub-divided into four smaller regions: East Harrar, West Harrar, Bale, and Arsi. The climate in Harrar, Arsi, and Bale is dryer and warmer than in western or southern Ethiopia. Practically all coffee from Harrar is sun-dried natural. There are several heirloom varietals that grow specifically in this region, that interact well with the altitude, climate, and soil type to produce a very unique flavor profiles. Quality Harrar coffees are notable for a fruity characteristic and a creamy body. The finest Harrar coffees have a distinct note of blueberry, though many other fruity and fruit-like aromatic flavors can occur. Harar coffees exhibit a rambunctious, some say wild character. These are naturally dried and yield a rich chocolate flavour with blueberry, cocoa, and a smidgen of cinnamon, a slightly fermented after taste.
Harrar also produces a unique coffee bean, i.e. the amber bean or golden bean coffee. Apparently, it’s the result of a certain varietal growing in a certain soil type in East Harrar, naturally occurring amber bean coffee. This bean has an excellent, vibrant and rich blueberry flavor.
- Harrar A: East Harrar, plus
- The geographically western locations of Hirna, Gemechisa, Debesso, Messela, Gerawa, Gewgew, and Dire Dawa Zuria.
- Harrar B: West Harrar, excluding the locations designated under Harrar A.
- Harrar C: Arsi and Golelecha
- Harrar D: Bale, West Arsi (Nansebo), and the location of Chole.
The region of Sidama is in southern Ethiopia inclusive of a few other origins in the geographical area of Yirgacheffe included towns of Hawassa (Awassa), Yirga Alem, and Dila. The coffee growing regions of Sidama lie in the famous Great Rift Valley that runs through Ethiopia and Kenya. Varying soil types, micro climates, and especially the countless heirloom coffee tree varietals make for a kaleidoscope of different flavors. It is difficult to make any single description of Sidama coffees, without immediately encountering another coffee that fits a completely different profile. The strength of Sidama lies in its variety.
- Sidama A: Borena, Benssa, Guji, Chire, Bona Zuria, Arroressa, Arbigona, Bale, Arsi, and West Arsi. [Hawassa arrival]
- Sidama B: Aleta Wendo, Dale, Chiko, Dara, Shebedino, Amaro, Dilla Zuria, Wensho, and Loko Abaya. [Hawassa]
- Sidama C: Kembata & Timbaro, Wellayta, South Omo, and Gamogoffa. [Soddo]
Ethiopian Limu is grown at elevations ranging from 3,600 to 6,200 feet in southwest Ethiopia, is a high-quality wet-processed (washed) coffee that exhibits a relatively milder acidity than Sidama and Yirgacheffe; the flavor is generally characterized by a balanced and clean cup, somewhat sharp. Limu and Sidamo coffees are frequently interchangeable due to similar flavor profiles. A limu cup is well-balanced body (mouthfeel) and noticeable winey and spicy flavors that are pleasantly sweet and vibrant.
- Limu A types include: Limmu Seka, Limmu Kossa, Manna, Gomma, Gummay, Seka Chekoressa, Kersa, Shebe and Gera.
- Limu B types include: Bedelle, Noppa, Chorra, Yayo, Alle, and Didu Dedessa.
Ethiopia’s largest basket of unwashed coffees which included all unwashed coffee produced in the southwestern region of Ethiopia. The Kaffa zone sees many Ethiopian investors developing estates and farms growing high quality Arabica coffee. It has suitable Agro-ecological conditions for specialty coffee production. Its altitude is between 1600 and 1900 meters the soil is red in color, and temperatures are conducive for coffee production. The area is known for distinct higher levels of precipitation and for that reason it is considered as one of the rainiest regions in Ethiopia. Because of its unique flavor and bean appearance many cuppers categorize Kaffa washed coffee with Borena region coffee while others compare its flavor with neighboring Limu coffee. Kaffa types include: Gimbo, Gewata and Chena.
- Jimma A types include: Yeki, Anderacha, Sheko, S.Bench, N.Bench, Gura ferda and Bero.
- Jimma B types include: Bedelle, Noppa, Chorra, Yayo, Alle and Didu Dedessa.
Ethiopia Unroasted-Coffee Gradings
In many cases, farmers grow their own unique heirloom varietals, the majority of which grow nowhere else in the world. A great many of them have not even been classified.
However, coffees in Ethiopia are given a geographical designation and
- grade 1 thru 9.
These are further classified in a group,
- Commercial Washed,
- Commercial Unwashed,
- Specialty Washed and
- Specialty Unwashed, e.g. Jimma A Gr.4.
The alpha character, i.e. “A” is a sub-region within Jimma, viz. Yeki, Anderacha, and Sheko. Coffee graded 1 or 2 is considered “specialty.” Coffee graded 3 through 9 is graded as “commercial.” Grades depend on visual inspection for defects and on cup quality.
Ethiopia Coffee Cupping Notes
The cupping profile varies between region and harvests, but can generally me classified to meet the following:
- Acidity: higher but pleasant without dry mount-feel
- Body: Medium-full, not too thick, without bitterness and complex
- Aroma: High level of cocoa, lemon, flower and honey, with touch of dried fruit, spicy notes of tea, liquorice, tobacco, and rhubarb can be sensed alongside the sensations of fine herbs
- Flavour: Strong positive (extravagant) aromatic notes.