Ethiopia is (supposedly) the birthplace of coffee, and probably our favourite origin to visit. Coffee from Ethiopia is unlike that from anywhere else in the world, due partly to the growing conditions, but also to hundreds of years of genetic variation amongst and between hundreds of local varietals. Add this into decades of processing expertise, and you have some of the finest coffees that exist on Planet Earth.
Arabica coffee still grows wild in the forests of south-western Ethiopia, as it has done since the 1600’s, but most coffee is either grown by smallholders, or on larger plantations. The coffee we buy has almost always come from smallholders, who make up the majority of Ethiopia’s production, often growing a couple of hundred coffee trees in their smallholding, and delivering ripe cherry to the local washing station.
Coffee is everywhere in Ethiopia, from the estimated tens of thousands of local varieties growing in the highlands, to the preparation of coffee (known as buna) happening outside most houses, at all times of day. To sit and watch the coffee ceremony is one of those experiences that will always be remembered; the roasting of the beans on an iron pan over the fire, the smell of incense being burnt, the brewing of the coffee in the traditional jebena pot, and the time taken to talk and be together as the whole ceremony unfolds.
We have been roasting Ethiopian coffee for as long as we have been roasting coffee, and we have only just scratched the surface of the variety that exists in this beautiful country.
Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar, Jimmah, Limu, Lekempti are all distinctive regions within Ethiopia, but the variety from within regions can be mind-boggling. We have tended to roast coffees from Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, in the south of the country, which is one the most famous regions. Here, the mix of rich soils, high altitudes, slow maturation of coffee cherry, and the countless local varietals give the coffees some of the most explosive fruit flavours that can be found, anywhere in the world.
We have visited the washing stations of Koga many times, especially Ed, who lived in Ethiopia for a period of time, and was often here. Chris & Katy have also visited the washing station, which is situated near the village of Sede, in the Gedeo zone, named for the indigenous Gedeo people. The town of Yirgacheffe is about 4km north of here. Konga produces plenty of coffee, and about 5,000 farmers live in the region, but this mill works with approximately 600-700 farmers, although every season, this will change. The mill produces both washed and natural coffees, and the quality is just so good. The expertise in processing, the beautiful balance of acidity and sweetness, the bright, fruit-driven flavours, the mix of local varieties; all combine to bring some of the most enjoyable coffees you can find anywhere in the world.
Ethiopian coffee has a vast range of flavours, but expect to find one or more of: