coffee & health

About Ethiopian Coffee



Ethiopia is a country that has a deeply rooted history in coffee. Ethiopia has strong coffee traditions that go back to the 10th century. Kaffa (an Ethiopian name) may be where the word “coffee originates. Modern day Ethiopian coffee production has not changed much since the 10th century in many respects.

Nearly all of Ethiopia’s bean production is done by hand, from the planting of new trees to the final harvesting. This is also called a natural organic coffee culture. Ethiopia is as naturally organic as any coffee producing country can be.

There are over 331,000 peasant farms and close to 20,000 state farms with more than 12 million workers. Most of the coffee is shade grown: about 55% is light shade; 35% medium shade, and 10% heavy shade. The native Arabica coffee bean is indigenous to the Harrar plateau where the plants grew wild for centuries. Ethiopia is the 2nd largest coffee producer in Africa and the 7th largest one in the world. A very unique aspect of Ethiopian coffee is that all coffee is grown organic by tradition. None of the coffee is organic certified. Ethiopia exports beans all year although it features “washed beans” from August to December and ‘dry beans” from October to March. At present, Ethiopia relies greatly on the trade of primary goods. It is a fact that the coffee trade decides the survival and future of large population groups in this country. Coffee is Ethiopia’s largest export and generates more than 60% of all the country’s exports earnings. An estimated 25% of the population is employed in the trade.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia continues to face difficult economic times and remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in Africa. It is important to understand what the Ethiopian government and other leading country organizations can do to support coffee cultivation and increase production volumes without sacrificing quality.

Over the years, the Ethiopian government has suppressed the domestic consumption of coffee by controlling the coffee sales within the country. In fact, they have restricted the transfer of coffee from coffee producing areas to other parts of the country. Regulations and trade limitations have increased the price of coffee beyond affordable levels for most Ethiopians. This is a real shame since local coffee consumption is beneficial to the trade, particularly when international coffee sales drop. Developing a culture of local coffee consumption in Ethiopia would help coffee revenues. It would also promote more coffee cultivation and a continued focus on quality to meet buyers’ expectations. Ethiopian coffee farmers are small scale and generally lack the resources for equipment, education, healthcare and other personal needs. However, they know the trade and benefit greatly from coffee cooperatives and other external resources to help them market their crops more successfully. Coffee is very important to this country’s survival.

Ethiopia’s coffee growing regions are Sidamo, Harrar and Yirgacheffe. Sidamo and Harrar are provincial states. Sidamo is in South Ethiopia bordering Kenya. Harrar is in East Ethiopia bordering Somalia where violence along the border is a constant challenge to stable agricultural and cultural practices. Yirgacheffe is a small region within Sidamo.

Ethiopian coffees are delicious and memorable. They taste almost like fruit at its peak, right off the fruit tree.

For example, Ethiopian Harrar coffee has a strong dry edge, winy to fruit-like acidity, rich aroma and a heavy body. Most of the Ethiopian Harrar coffee beans are grown on small scale farms in the eastern part of the country. Harrar coffees also enjoy an intense aroma of blueberries or blackberries. To capture the fine aromatics in the espresso “crema,” Ethiopian Harrar coffee is used very often in espresso blends. There is a different type of coffee bean called Ghimbi which is grown in the western part of the country. Ghimbi coffee has a more balanced, heavier and longer lasting body than the Harrars. The most favored coffee grown in southern Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Yirgacheffee coffee bean. It is more mild, fruit like and aromatic than other beans. Sometimes, Yirgacheffee coffee is labeled “Sidamo,” which is the name of the district where Yirgacheffee coffee is produced. Ghimbi and Yirgacheffe are “washed coffees.”

Ready to enjoy a specialty coffee that has rich, pleasing aroma, a bold and complex flavor with a snappy acidity and hints of fruit or citrus? Enjoy a cup of delicious Ethiopian Longberry Harrar coffee freshly roasted to order!
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