Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica Coffee, the most cultivated coffee species worldwide. It is home to a full range of complex and unique flavour profiles and also to the oldest coffee consuming tradition.
85% of the Ethiopian production are natural (sundried) processed coffees, the remaining 15% are washed. Ethiopia starts harvesting coffee in September/October in lowland regions and by the end of January 95% of the crop should have been harvested. Washed coffees start shipping in January and naturals in late March.
The Sidamo region is in Southern Ethiopia. It includes the coffees internally designated as Sidamo A (which has a flavour profile close to Guji), Sidamo B (Amaro, Aleta Wendo), Sidamo C (Gurage, Wollaita, Kembata Tembaro), Sidamo D (Bale, Arsi) and Sidamo E (Basketo, Forest B). These coffees can be used to create the export grades Sidamo 2 (washed) and Sidamo 4 (natural).
One of the most important features of Sidamo coffee is flavour complexity, which derives from the different varietals found in the region (heirloom). Coffee is pooled at cooperative level, coming from many small farmers. This creates a blend which gives to Sidamo its complexity in the cup.
The Guji region comprises the coffee-producing woredas of Bule Hora, Kercha, Shakiso, Uraga, Adola and Hambella. Before 2018, Guji coffee was considered internally as part of the Sidamo A region. Since then, it became a distinct quality with its own characteristics.
Many exporters own processing stations in the region, which allows them to build stocks to create high-quality export grades Guji 2 (washed) and Guji 3 or 4 (naturals). A lot of natural Guji is used to create high-quality Sidamo 4 (also called Sidamo A flavour).
The yirgachefe is a small region located within the larger Sidamo region. Coffee quality is very distinct, which allowed a small region to have its own commercial designation. Wenago, Kochere, and Gelana Abaya are coffee producing areas that have a similar cupping profile and therefore are qualified internally as being Yirgachefe coffee.
Unlike other coffee regions, Yirgachefe is graded internally with the letters A and B based on cup profile, A being those coffees that show the typical Yirgachefe flavour (black tea, flowers, citrus) and B those who don’t. However, one can find specialty grade Yirgachefe B, with excellent cupping attributes, but without the “classic” Yirgachefe flavour.
Djimmah / Limu
Djimmah Zone is home to 100,000 metric tonnes of unwashed coffee per year, being split into Djimmah A and Djimmah B (also known as Ilubabour). This coffee is harvested by farmers, who dry the coffee at home and sell the dry cherry to Akrabis (local traders) when they are in need of cash.
Where there are washing stations, farmers sell the fresh cherry and stations produce washed coffee, which is usually called Limu because of the woredas Limu Seka and Limmu Kossa, centers of production of Western washed coffee.
Lekempti coffee is sourced from Kelem Wollega, East Wollega, and Gimbi (West Wollega). This coffee region produces almost exclusively unwashed coffees, by small farmers who dry the coffee at home and sell the dry cherry to Akrabis (local traders) when they are in need of cash. The coffee-producing areas are scattered and this hinders farmers from selling the fresh cherry, which results in very few washing stations in Wollega.
This coffee can sometimes be substituted by Djimmah naturals, especially lower grades 4 and 5, and depending on weather conditions during the drying of the cherry. Lekempti grade 5 is a famous quality in Saudi Arabia, the largest importer (in volume) of Ethiopian coffee.