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To taste amazing (without additives or extra processing), coffee needs to grow in the right environment. For millennia, Ethiopia has had just that. Thanks to its mountainous southern regions and deep, rich soil, Ethiopia is the natural home of thousands of coffee varieties.
In these ideal conditions, coffee can be grown in Ethiopia without the need for agricultural chemicals, making Ethiopian beans superior in quality. This comes in sharp contrast with many with other parts of the world where coffee farmers often have no choice but to use chemicals, engineered varieties, or by providing artificial shade for coffee trees. Instead, when you get beans from Ethiopia, you are getting coffee as it was meant to be.
Ethiopian coffee is renowned for its floral and bright, fruity flavors- usually with a higher acidity, a light to medium body, and a complex flavor profile. Ethiopian coffees are also one of the rare places you can experience blueberry notes. People are often looking for a “blueberry bomb” coffee and, really, you should look no farther than Ethiopian coffees! Do note that not all Ethiopian coffes exhibit blueberry notes- it all depends on variety and processing method.
Ethopian coffee beans can be either naturally processed or washed. The method used for processing has a huge role in the coffee’s final taste. Most Ethiopian coffee exports are processed naturally. Natural processing is the traditional method, having been done that way for centuries any major changes. However, wet processing is becoming more common as the equipment required for it continues to improve.
Natural processed coffee tends to be fruitier and sweeter as the bean spends a longer time inside the coffee cherry. In contrast, washed coffee tends to carry a flavor more representative of the seed/bean itself.
Until 1995, Ethiopia was divided into different provinces. Now, Ethiopia is now split into districts; however, the old province names are still used to indicate region, particularly when it comes to coffee. Sidama or Sidamo was the country’s southernmost province, and many coffee plantations continue to grow coffee there today.
Yirgacheffe, a small town famous for producing some of the world’s best coffee beans, is located in the Sidama region. Most producers in Yirgacheffe favor wet processing, yielding brighter coffee beans with lighter bodies, higher acidity levels, sweet floral notes, and fruity flavors.
Guji is also another prominent coffee-producing region that is located south of Sidama. The world’s best roasters regularly flock to Guji for their beans. Guji beans tend to have a tea-like body and sweet floral notes, such as jasmine with peach and melon.
Farther east you can find Harrar, where delicious, dry-processed coffee beans with syrupy bodies are produced. These beans tend to have a wild, fruity character and a winey taste. Some Harrar coffees are labeled as Mocha Harrar, so named for the famous Red Sea port where the world’s finest coffee beans were shipped to the rest of the world.