A detailed summary of Ethiopian coffee, the cradle of unique coffees

Common knowledge - Written: Mya


5:46 20/09/2022

CFRR- Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, with a long history and ideal terrain has created the world’s most unique coffee flavors.

Ethiopia – homeland of coffee


This is believed to be where humans discovered coffee in the 9th century. Legend has it that one goat herder named Kaldi and his goats and   are part of the story. One day, the goat herder saw his goats very excited after eating red fruits growing on nearby bushes. Because of his so attractive feeling, he brought the fruit to a local shaman, who attributed the phenomenon to demonic powers and ordered them to be burned, so he ordered them burned. The hot coffee berries began to exude a wonderful aroma that made the shaman change his mind. When putting out the fire, the burnt coffee berries are removed and poured through hot water for storage. Eventually, they become an alluring drink. Shamans and other priests soon began using coffee as a way to stay awake at night or during prayer hours. Regardless of whether the story is true or not, Ethiopia is still considered the cradle of coffee and has since spread all over the world.

Kaldi and his goats. Photo: Homegrounds.co


Ethiopia is a landlocked East African country, bordered on the north and northeast by Eritrea, to the east by Djibouti and Somalia, to the south by Kenya, and to the west by Sudan and South Sudan. Vibrant earth colors cover the landscape and many high mountains and tropical forests. Abbai (Blue Nile) is the source of most of the drinking water for the people. With the exception of a few large government-owned estates, nearly all (98%) of the country’s coffee is grown by farmers on small farms.


The country experienced many difficulties, such as political and economic, as well as drought. Over the years, Ethiopia’s economy has quickly grown, so coffee plays an important role in this process.

Ethiopia is ranked 5th worldwide in the quantity of coffee produced by 7,500,000 60kg bags in 2018. The leading countries are Brazil (60 million), Vietnam (30 million), Columbia ( 14 million), and Indonesia (10 million). Interestingly, the country has a high level of internal consumption, which corresponds to about half of total production and amounts to 2.26kg per capita (2016).

Of Ethiopia’s 105 million people, more than 15 million employees are in the coffee sector, and coffee accounts for 35% of total exports and generates about 60% of its revenue from abroad.

Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia seen from a distance.
Photo: Timeoutabudhabi

Coffee production

Coffee plants mainly grow in the southwest of the country. The only species of coffee grown in Ethiopia is arabica. Grown at altitudes that often exceed 1,000 meters above sea level, but when it comes to quality coffee, they are grown mainly at altitudes between 1,700 meters and even 2,200 meters. Coffee trees grow in the shade, the ripe coffee berries are hand-harvested, and people don’t need a lot of mechanized machines in the process. That is in stark contrast to how coffee is produced in Brazil, which traditionally leaves yield per hectare much lower than in the world’s largest coffee producer.

Map of coffee growing areas in Ethiopia. Photo: Cafeimports

Coffee can be either dry-processed or fully wet-processed. Depending on the region, one different processing method is commonly applied. Drying usually processes in raised beds, concrete yards, or, when it comes to lower quality coffee, simply above ground.

The classification is divided into levels and regulated by national law based on several defects in a sample.


Specialty coffees are grade 1 or 2. Grades 3 to 6 are commercial coffees, so that these are of lesser quality than specialty coffees. There are also grades 7 and 8, but these are usually sold on the domestic market and cannot exported.

Like several other African countries, Ethiopia is famous for its cooperative system (cooperative). Due to the high fragmentation, each farmer’s household only has a small plot of land to grow coffee. All crops are purchased, processed, and sold by the cooperative. That is by no means the only production system in Ethiopia, as the country is undergoing drastic changes more and more often.

Famous growing areas

There are about 6 to 10 thousand different coffees from Ethiopia, but they are often distinguished by region, altitude, and notes rather than by type. Ethiopian coffee is known for its floral flavor with a hint of wine and a light berry aftertaste. Depending on the area, they have a moderate to high acidity and body.


Geisha coffee, also known as Geisha, is one of the unique types of coffee in the world. They were discovered in the 1930s, at the Gori Geisha Forest, in the mountains around the town of Geisha, Southwestern Ethiopia. Geisha trees grow tall, distinguished by a leaf shape that is both beautiful and long, an oval structure of the beans, and a strong aroma of flowers. The quality of this coffee can be significantly improved when grown at extremely high altitudes that are famous for their different taste and very expensive.

The main reason why Geisha coffee is so special is because of its cultivar.

The variation of coffee sourced from Ethiopia provides the characteristics that make the difference. Besides, the drying and roasting coffee beans process is also a unique feature of Geisha coffee. All ripe berries are hand-harvested by the locals. They are dried for more than a week (about eight days) or until the coffee beans reach an ideal moisture content. After that, the coffee beans are roasted to perfection.

After being recognized for its ability to withstand coffee leaf rust, Geisha was distributed throughout Panama through CATIE (Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Education) in the 1960s. However, this variety has very brittle branches and is not popular with farmers, so it has not been widely grown. It was only after winning the first prize in the coffee competition in Panama and breaking the 2004 record for the auction price of green coffee beans that this variety became prominent and popular. 


Ripe coffee berries after being harvested. Photo: Baristahustle

Geisha coffee taking care of is a difficult and picky process about soil as the need for perfect environmental conditions to grow properly. That is why they are mainly grown on the highest mountain of Panama. Only a certain amount of coffee can plant yearly, and that quantity is not enough to supply global demand. These coffee trees require big spaces, so we must plant 3 meters apart to create conditions for the branches to have enough blanks for them to grow.

There is no coffee on our planet quite like Geisha. Just the aroma has been commented on as unique, comparable to the smell of perfume with scents of jasmine, rose, and bergamot. Indeed, professional examiners often describe geisha notes as a feast of the best fruits, such as papaya, guava, citrus, berries, mangoes, and pineapples. Other popular flavors include Earl Grey, citrus peel, ripe coffee berries, honey, flowers, and honeysuckle.

Taking a sip of Geisha coffee, you will feel the sweetness which is along with delicate, silky gentle fruity aroma with low sourness and bitterness.

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a group that specializes in everything coffee-related, from baristas to the beans themselves. The SCA also has a scoring system to rank the taste of certain types of coffee. The system scores coffee’s taste profile based on a range of variables prescribed by experts in the field, with a maximum score of 100.

Based on the SCA system, Geisha coffee has a whopping score of 94.1 points, which is probably the most perfect and objective possible demonstration of the incredibly high quality of this particular coffee.


Sidamo is one of the largest coffee-growing regions in Ethiopia, producing a large amount of excellent coffee each year. The harvest season lasts from October to January next year. Sidamo coffee belongs to the Heirloom variety, which is grown in Sidamo province, in the highlands of southern Ethiopia at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,200 meters above sea level.

These heights qualify coffees like Strictly High Grown (SHG) or Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) to grow more slowly, giving them more time to absorb nutrients and develop strong flavors. stronger based on local climate and soil conditions. As one of Ethiopia’s most fertile lands, Sidamo has a warm climate with a constant temperature of 15 – 200C, thanks to abundant rainfall, an optimal climate, and rich volcanic soil, Sidamo has perfect conditions, perfect for growing coffee.

Thanks to nature’s excellent conditions, Sidamo is considered one of the best coffees in the world. Flavorful and complex, with delicate notes of berries and cane sugar lingering on the tongue, Sidamo coffee is known for its floral, citrus and medium, smooth body aromas. It is more earthy than other Ethiopian coffees, with a bright finish and low acidity.

Coffee beans are sun-dried in high beds. Photo: Espressocoffeeguide

Sidamo coffee is usually processed wet. After picking, they are forced through a screen using large amounts of water pressure, a process that removes the skin and part of the pulp and left to ferment in tanks for about a day. After that, the coffee beans are picked out, washed, and left in the sun. Once dry, the remaining pulp is peeled off. Wet-processed coffees are more vibrant and aromatic than dry-processed varieties.


The town of Yirgacheffe (or Irgachefe) is a small part of Sidamo, bordering the Great Rift valley and being the administrative center of the coffee-growing district. Like many other premium coffees, Yirgacheffe is grown at altitudes of 1,700 – 2,200 meters above sea level and picked by hand. The harvest period is from October to December.

Yirgacheffe coffee farmers are usually members of the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union (YCFCU), which consists of 23 different member cooperatives with more than 40,000 farmers. YCFCU members are exempt from the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX) and receive premiums from trade certifications such as Fairtrade coffee and Organic coffee.

Some Yirgacheffe farmers are members of the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union (OCFCU) including small farmers from the Oromia region of Ethiopia. The cooperative will unify processing, sorting, and sales techniques that will allow coffee to reach the market more efficiently and has more control over the reputation of Ethiopian coffee.

OCFCU also helps stabilize farmers’ economies by spreading payments throughout the year, which greatly benefits farmers who have an annual crop and harvest. These cooperatives provide a point of contact for exporters who sell the best unroasted green coffee beans to bulk wholesale distributors, and ultimately to roasters.

In this new century, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee farmers continue to tap into their heritage and growing traditions to show off what is special not only about Ethiopian coffee but specialty coffee as well.

The beautiful nature of Yirgacheffe. Photo: Victrolacoffee

Fine Yirgacheffe coffee is one of the local Heirloom varieties, which has a rich, clean taste and complex floral aromas, sometimes with a hint of toasted coconut. One of the most remarkable things about Yirgacheffe is its brightness. Thanks to the combination of grain and processing methods, the coffee has a clean quality, making it an ideal drink to try hot or with ice. Like many African coffees, Yirgacheffe tends to be light or medium and has strong floral aromas, along with floral and citrus notes, berries, nuts, chocolate, and wine.


Harrar is a city in the highlands east of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It still grows some of the oldest coffee varieties. Harrar coffee belongs to a wild type of coffee bean in Ethiopia, grown on small farms in the Oromia region (formerly Harrar) at an altitude of 1,400 – 2,000 meters, harvest time is from October to February.

The ancient city of Harrar, Ethiopia. Photo: Thenationalnews

Harrar coffee is processed dry and dried in the sun after the beans’ separation from the berries. Then they are not washed but dried evenly on the high beds. They are considered fine coffee, an exception to the general rule that high-quality Ethiopian coffees are wet-processed. The reason is that during the harvest time, there is no rain and the dry processing helps the fruit flavors to penetrate deeply into the coffee beans.

After the beans’ separation, the fruit is thrown away or used as fertilizer. Recently, however, new processing methods have emerged that enable the coffee pods to become Cascara, the quintessential Ethiopian tea, or can be ground into a powder for baking.

Famous for its fruit flavors such as blueberry, strawberry, cherry, wine, and chocolate, Harrar coffee has a medium body and mild acidity. The different flavors which expressed depending on how it is roasted. You’ll enjoy the fruity flavor more if it’s lightly roasted. If you roast it deeply, you’ll find plenty of chocolate flavors and even some spices like cardamom and cinnamon. In addition, the aroma of Harrar also carries notes of passionate blueberries and apricots, which makes it a popular choice for espresso coffees.


Limu locates in the western highlands of Oromia, Ethiopia. The area is known for its dense forests and abundant water supplies. Most coffee in Limu is grown on the land that is less than one hectare , at elevations between 1,100 and 1,900 meters. Here, the soils rich in humus and nutrients are regenerated due to the continuous decomposition of organic matter to help coffee plants have the best growing conditions. Limu coffee beans are medium in size, with a distinctive round shape and green.

Traditionally, coffee in Limu is dried in pods and stored in the home by producers until put in a dry mill for exchange. Recently, the development of wet processing and abundant water will help Limu coffee wash. This process, coupled with the genetic diversity of the heirloom coffee varieties, creates a distinctive flavor. Limu is known for its citric acidity and floral aroma.

The ripe berries are hand-picked and harvested by 300 smallholder farmers. Then they are floated and then separated from the ripe fruit. Next is to grind it by machine and wash it. Finally, the coffee is sun-dried and stirred regularly for 7 to 10 days in a traditional high land to ensure even drying.

Farmers drying coffee in Limu. Photo: Mycuppa

A cup of Limu coffee has a relatively low acidity but slightly sharp, well-balanced body, less sour, spicy, sweet, pleasant, and vibrant with floral overtones, delicate feeling with gentle traces of family taste.


Also known as Jimma or Jimmah coffee, Djimmah coffee comes from the Illubabor and Kaffa regions of the country. They grow at an altitude of 1700 – 1920 meters. With an ideal climate, the plant species are well-protected thanks to the large forest canopy that provides shade, protects from the midday sun, and maintains moisture in the soil. Therefore, Djimmah is a unique coffee having the closest flavor to the original variety.

Djimmah coffee is very wild. A strong alcohol taste with distinct dark chocolate notes is characteristic. Djimmah doesn’t give off a pretty nut shape their fruit is small and irregular, but hidden within it is a flavor’s richness. Ethiopia is considered the home of coffee, but coffee began to be grown in this area quite late, as Ethiopians harvest enough coffee for their needs from wild trees.

The exploited coffee forest is self-cultivated under the shade of natural forest trees. Forest coffee offers variety in selection and breeding for disease-resistant, high-yielding crops and top quality in aroma and taste. Forest coffee accounts for about 10% of total coffee production in Ethiopia.

Enjoying Djimmah coffee, you will find its mild character offset by a delicate, rich, earthy, wine-like aroma with flavors like dark cocoa and walnut with low acidity and chocolate aftertaste.


Guji, located about 300 to 400 kilometers south of the capital Addis Ababa, is a secluded, beautiful jungle and unspoiled land of the country.

Wild scenery of highland Guji, Ethiopia. Photo: Trabocca

Like Yirgacheffe, coffee from the Guji grouping with Sidamo is a broad geographical classification that includes much of central and southern Ethiopia. However, Guji coffee is said to be quite different, so in 2002, it was split into a separate coffee to take its name from the Oromo people, that is a tribe having a long tradition of growing coffee.

The landscape in Guji is very diverse by different elevations, with more and less forest, such as few microclimates in the area. All suggest that coffee grown in the Guji can taste different if it comes from several farms or lands. Complex terrain combined with whole-washed processing methods, grown in soil rich in minerals and nutrients, the coffee bursts with floral aromas and sweet tropical fruit aromas along with other flavors of vanilla, Cherry, and cocoa blend with mild spicy like lemongrass.

The farming method in Guji is still largely traditional. Guji farmers often intercrop their coffee with other food crops. This method is popular among smallholder farmers because it maximizes land use and food supply for their families.

In addition to still traditional intercropping, farmers often use little fertilizers or pesticides. Most farm work is done manually with little use of mechanized machines, even during processing.

All coffee is hand-harvested and hand-picked before being shipped to the collection center or the washing station. Here, the coffee has split to remove damaged or unripe berries. They are then transferred to beds to dry in the shade for 10 to 14 days until the moisture content reaches 12%. During this time, the coffee is regularly stirred and graded by hand several times to remove damaged or discolored beans. That meticulous care makes the coffee taste more delicate.


The coffee name appeared after the origin of the Kaffa region, located in southwestern Ethiopia. It is also the birthplace of the arabica tree, the mother of all other arabica coffee plants.

Without being cultivated and cared for, coffee grows wild in the middle of a deep forest, at an altitude of 1,400 – 2,100 meters above sea level. So, Kaffa is a forest coffee but can also be seen as a semi-forest coffee, meaning that people prune trees and thin the foliage to promote tree growth.

Another property of Kaffa coffee is its natural defense against diseases, especially the fungus ravaging coffee plantations in Latin America and other parts of the world. The reason for this is the diversity of coffee trees in the forests of Ethiopia. People estimated that the country has 99.8% genetic diversity of arabica.

Cloud forests in Kaffa, Ethiopia. Photo: Impactroasters

Today, coffee is not like in the past but is planted in the farmers’ backyards or on large privately owned and waged estates. The coffee bean is usually picked, processed, and ground on site or taken to the nearest washing station to be sold and mixed with other farmers’ batches. Cooperative members will have their ripe coffee cherries weighed and picked up at the regular washing yard, where there is more traceability to the producer level according to the member list of the cooperative.

On general principle, naturally processed coffee will have more pronounced fruit flavors and deep chocolate tones, often with a hint of grape and more syrup. Coffee after washing will be lighter and have more pronounced acidity.


Mountain Bale is in the new administrative region of West Arsi, formerly part of Guji. Bale Mountain National Park is a famous area in Ethiopia, home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world and beautiful mountain vistas.

Recently, the Ethiopian government has begun to encourage local people to grow coffee by the way to help develop the region’s economy and culture. Here, coffee farming is not as widespread as in some Ethiopian area, but with its high altitude and rich biodiversity, the coffee tree is thriving and producing high-quality beans.

Recently, the investment and expansion are also aimed only at the highest quality coffee. The farm is located on high ground 1900-2000 meters above sea level with about 100 hectares of coffee and grows a mixture of local varieties from research centers. Indigenous forest varieties are transfered to families planted in their small plots. These varieties are called Ethiopia Heirloom, a combination of native Typica hybrids and newly improved varieties.

Coffee harvesting is a job for each farmer household. They will sort by hand to separate underripe and overripe cherries before taking them to the washing station for processing. They are soaked in water to remove pest and damaged fruits, and then transferred to drying beds. Under the sun, ripe and cracked coffee cherries will still grade by hand for the first few days.

The followed fermentation is drying and further sorting by hand. Coffee is dried for about 20 days, occasionally stirring. They will be covered at the hottest time of the day to protect from the harsh sunshine and at night to prevent moisture. That is to ensure quality because the coffee is very well cared.

Coffee from Mountain Bale thanks to its natural processing, demonstrates all the great characteristics of top-quality Ethiopian coffee. They have a bright acidity and juicy fruity aroma.

Bale mountain landscape, Ethiopia. Photo: Worldatlas


Lekempti, also known as Nekempti, is located within the state of Wellega, in the southwestern countryside of Ethiopia. The coffee here is grown at an altitude of 1,900 – 2,100 meters.

Lekempti coffee has a mild fruity aroma is distinct from Harrar coffee, along with caramel and vanilla aromas. It offers a delicate, mildly acidic, pleasant taste that combines perfectly with an exotic and clean aftertaste.


Bebeka Coffee Plantation is located in Mizan Teferi, southwestern Ethiopia. With 6,000 hectares and about 5,000 employees, it is the largest coffee plantation in Ethiopia and also the oldest. The altitude is 1,500 meters, which is lower than other Ethiopian coffees, but still offers an ideal climate and creates the best growing conditions for plant species protected by larger forest trees, providing shade and maintaining soil moisture.

This coffee has a slight acidity of citrus and a medium body. These are short and large-sized plants, as they are lowland crops.


Teppi coffee is named after its growing area, mainly grown by gardeners at altitudes between 1,300 and 2500 meters. The harvest period is October to January, and they are wet-processed.

Teppi offers a well-balanced cup of citrus, a distinct “wild” Ethiopian flavor, and a mellow finish.


In fact, almost all of Ethiopia’s coffee production is still done manually, from planting new plants to the final stage of collection. Its strong taste and complexity confirm its position in the coffee community in the world. With about 15 million coffee-related workers out of a population of 105 million, people said that almost the entire country of Ethiopia is devoted to coffee production and trading. That is the monitor product which plays an important role in the country’s economy.

With a long tradition, along with its own characteristics of taste and processing methods combined with a favorable natural environment, Ethiopian coffee is always highly appreciated and considered the first choice of coffee lovers.





































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