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.
One of the most important features of Sidamo coffee is the flavour complexity which is derived from the different varietals found in the region (Heirloom). Coffee is collected at the farm gate level, from several small holder farmers. This creates a blend that gives Sidamo coffee its complexity in the cup.
It includes the coffees internally designated as Sidamo A (which has a flavour profile close to Guji, Aroressa, Bansa, and Wansho)
Sidamo B (Amaro, Aleta Wendo, Aleta Chuko Loka Abaya – Wethered)
Sidamo C (Gurage, Wollaita, Kembata Tembaro)
Sidamo D (Bale, Arsi) and Sidamo E (Basketo, Forest B)
These coffees can be used to create the commercial export Grades Sidamo 2 (Washed) and Sidamo 4 (Natural)
Guji region comprises the coffee-producing woredas of Bule Hora, Adola, Kercha, Shakiso, Uraga, Anasora and Hambella. 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).
Yirgacheffe 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 Yirgacheffe coffee.
Unlike other coffee regions, Yirgacheffe is graded internally with the letters A and B based on cup profile, A being those coffees that show the typical Yirgacheffe flavour (black tea, flowers, citrus) and B those who don’t. However, one can find specialty grade Yirgacheffe B, with excellent cupping attributes, but without the “classic” Yirgacheffe flavour.
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 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 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.
The Ethiopian coffee harvest season lasts from mid- December until late February. By mid of December a matured coffee tree begins to bear fruit in clusters along its branches. Referred to as cherries, the fruit is initially green and turns red when it is ready for harvesting.
Beneath the cherries’ red skin (called exocarp) is a pulp (called mesocarp), and an outer layer and a parchment-like covering the bean (called endocarp). Inside these layers are usually two oval shaped beans, with their flat side facing each other. Harvesting time for coffee cherries will vary by region and altitude. Typically, there is only one harvest per year, which will last for 2 to 3 months as cherries ripen.
Traditionally coffee is harvested by hand either by strip picking or selective picking. Strip picking is exactly how it sounds, trees are harvested entirely at one time “stripping” all the beans off the branches, ripe as well as unripe cherries. Typically, only Robusta coffee is strip picked. Modernization has provided machine harvest for Robusta coffee which simply shakes the trees knocking of all the cherries at one time.
Selective picking involves making numerous passes over coffee trees, selecting only the ripe cherries, then returning to the tree several times over a few weeks to pick remaining cherries as they ripen. Selective picking is more expensive due to the labor involved and is only used for Arabica coffee. It requires up to 3 or 4 pickings in order to harvest each cherry at its peak ripeness.
Every coffee harvest is a challenge, with a considerable expenditure for a coffee farmer. On an average farm, pickers gather between 25-50 Kg of cherries per day. Out of this only 80 percent is actual coffee beans. Of that 80 percent only a small amount is of the best quality that we choose for our coffee.
A point to be noted is that wrong harvesting leads to wrong processing and ultimately results in loss of quality. Hence it is important to be careful of the following: