The birthplace of arabica coffee. With diverse terrain and wide variation in climate and soils, Ethiopia produces unique coffee flavours unlike anywhere else in the world.
Ethiopia is the only place in the world where arabica coffee plants are native. Wild coffee plantations have grown throughout the country for millennia before being discovered around 850 AD.
As the legend goes, a young goat herder noticed his goats jumping around energetically after consuming berries off a small shrub, and they refused to sleep later in the evening. He picked some of these berries and took them to a local monastery where Monks began brewing tea-like beverages and experienced similar effects to the goats.
Thanks to the early efforts of Yemenis monks and traders, coffee has been traded extensively around the world ever since. Arabica coffee can now be found growing in hundreds of countries and is enjoyed by many. All arabica in the world can be genetically traced back to Ethiopia, which is now the world’s fifth largest coffee producer. However, over fifty per cent of coffee grown is reserved for domestic use, as coffee forms a central part of strong cultural traditions dating back to the sixteenth century.
Ethiopian coffee-growing regions are split into several distinct localities. The most well-known regions of Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar and Limu produce some of the highest quality arabica coffee in the world, possessing flavour profiles unique to the high altitudes and volcanic soils of the African Horn.
Grown at some of the highest altitudes in the coffee-growing world, Ethiopian coffee is prized for its complexity, wine-like qualities, powerful aromatics and distinctive acidity. Growing at heights of up to 2,200 masl, cherries mature very slowly, allowing a longer development cycle and fuller flavour in the cup. This terroir results in the distinctive flavour that Ethiopian coffee is known for.
Due to the impressive altitude that coffee is grown, cherries are harvested by hand before being taken to local processing stations to be sorted. A strong traditional approach to processing coffee has resulted in the heavy presence of winey-tasting coffee from Ethiopia. Much of the Ethiopian specialty coffee that you find has been processed naturally, the Harrar district is famous for it, which accounts for these strong, fruit-heavy flavours.
However, there are regions in Ethiopia experimenting with their processing, as washed processed coffee can increasingly be found in the southern coffee-growing districts, including world-renowned Yirgacheffe. Part of the larger Sidamo district, Yirgacheffe is arguably the most famous coffee-growing region in the world. Beloved for consistently producing specialty arabica coffee that is scored among the world’s best, the Yirgacheffe region is one of the few Ethiopian origins that wash their coffee, producing distinct high-toned floral and crisp citrus flavours in the cup.
In 2019 we sent Adam, our then QC Lead and Head of Coffee in London, to experience the specialty coffee culture in Ethiopia and grow our connections with producers there. We’ve increasingly been sourcing specialty Ethiopian coffee in the past few years, so Adam was our man to get a deeper understanding of the region.
He travelled with D.R. Wakefields, a UK importer, and also spent time with Falcon Coffee as they journeyed to Jimma, Bench Sheko and Addis Ababa.
While in Jimma and Bench Sheko the team visited coffee farms and washing stations, and the Horizon Dry Mill (the largest dry mill in Ethiopia). While on the trip they met a coffee farmer Mustefa Abakeno through Falcon Coffee, which led to us buying his coffee a few years in a row.
There is an enormous opportunity to drive quality uplift through direct relationships like this one with Mustefa, as we are able to work with his team and outgrowers on cherry selection, drying and farm management, covering all aspects of quality best practices. By working directly, we are also able to make the supply chain much more efficient and maximise the amount of money that goes back to the producers.
Working directly with producers also enables us to adhere to our sourcing principles of partnering with ethical, sustainable and traceable producers, wherever we source our coffee.
At Allpress, you’ll find Ethiopian coffee shining in our blend The Good Brew. Ethiopian coffee brings delicate floral aromas with berry and stone fruit flavours to this blend, perfect for lazy Saturday mornings around the kitchen table.
We often feature Ethiopian coffee in Our Coffee Galaxy as outstanding single origins too. The juicy, fruity, sticky sweet flavours stand apart and are always enjoyable, however you brew them.
Ethiopia is among the most prestigious coffee-growing regions of the world; you can find Ethiopian coffee in the best specialty coffee shops showcasing a variety of origins within the country. Whenever you buy a bag from Ethiopia, you're in for a treat with their signature intense fruity flavours typical of the country.