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Ethiopia’s Coffee History & Trends

Posted by Meera Nair on

Ethiopia is where it all began. Legend has it that coffee was first discovered here many many centuries ago.

Did you know that the story about the goat herder only came to light in the 1600s but actually happened in the 9th century? 

It is the arabica coffee plant that is said to originate in this East African nation.

Apart from its history, what exactly made Ethiopian coffee flourish to this extent? Wouldn’t you love to know?


History

Many Ethiopian villages cultivated coffee not as a beverage initially but as a source of energy. They would grind the green coffee beans and mix them with clarified butter and roll it into small balls or make porridges with the ground green coffee.

After the power of the coffee beans was discovered, coffee as a beverage made its way to the neighbouring Arabic regions and then to the rest of the world from Ethiopia.

Though the country played such a monumental role in fueling the earliest coffee culture, its political and economic scenario eventually led to a decline in coffee production. 

Ethiopian coffees to try

During the late 90s and early 2000s, the price of coffee fell. Farmers began to lose motivation to continue with the trade. This meant that coffee production was abandoned in many cases as it was no longer a lucrative venture.

Later, farmers tried to gain some semblance of control but were often unable to be paid fairly for their crops.

But as they say, all's well that ends well.

Today, the Tea and Coffee Authority, a regulatory body overseen by the government, manages everything related to the industry including fixing prices.

Over the years, Ethiopia became one of the top 10 coffee producers in the world and is the top 1 coffee producer in Africa.


Trends

  • While each country has their own way of categorising coffee, Ethiopia has a couple of different interesting ones. Firstly, coffees are divided into 3 main categories based on where they are grown - Forest Coffees, Garden Coffees, and Plantation Coffees.

    Forest coffees are those that are grown in the wild. Garden coffees come from coffee trees planted near a farmhouse or any such man-made structure. Plantation coffees, as you can guess, come from large coffee farms.

    Secondly, coffee is also categorised as Longberry, Shortberry, and Mocha. Longberry coffees are known to have large beans and are of the best quality. Shortberry coffees are made of smaller beans but are still good quality.
     
  • There’s something called the jebena coffee in Ethiopia. It is coffee prepared in clay pots known as jebena, where the ground coffee is mixed with boiling water to produce the brew.

    This comes from an Ethiopian coffee ceremony wherein the roasted coffee is ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. The coffee is usually bitter, strong, and topped off with honey or sugar.

    The clay pot gives it an earthiness. Some Ethiopians also add salt to their coffee.
Ethiopian coffee ceremony

Characteristics

Like your coffee to stand out with bright flavours? Ethiopian coffees are perfect for you! 

They are known to be fruity, bright, and have relatively high acidity. Ethiopian coffees are generally medium-bodied. They have floral, fruity aromas. 

Some of the common tasting notes you’ll find are that of chocolate, berries, and citrus fruits.

There are 3 primary regions in Ethiopia where coffee is produced. The coffee from Harar has a wine flavour, medium acidity, and a full body. It is dry-processed and sorted by hand.

Sidamo coffees, on the other hand, are well-balanced and have a more complex acidity with lemon tasting notes.

Ethiopian coffees are best enjoyed when roasted to a light or medium level.



You can see why Ethiopian coffee is a must-have for avid coffee connoisseurs.

Looking to try it for yourself? Treat yourself to our award-winning single origin from Ethiopia that boasts grapefruit, dark chocolate, and tea tasting notes. It is from Sidama and is one of our favourite washed coffees!

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