Cupper’s Guide to Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopian coffees are the jewel of coffees. They’re bold, they’re flavourful, they’re some of the best coffees in the world. Come with us to explore the birthplace and story of coffee!

The mountains of Ethiopia, where coffee originated from

Introduction to Ethiopian Coffee

In the world of coffee, there are special jewels from Ethiopia that we can’t help but rave about. They’re bold, they’re flavourful, they’re Ethiopian coffee! Ethiopian coffees have complex characteristics that vary with the region and growing conditions. Here you’ll get the lowdown on all things Ethiopian coffee. We will show you why these are all a must-try for any coffee lover.

History and Background

The country and cultures of Ethiopia have been around for thousands of years. According to Ethiopian legend, a goat herder named Kaldi first discovered coffee. Kaldi noticed his goats were in a prolong state of high excitement… and it only happened after they ate red berries from a specific shrub.

From that point, there’s two versions of the story. The first is that, being curious, Kaldi tried them himself and found that they gave him a boost of energy. The second version has Kaldi reporting his goats’ antics to his abbot at the local monastery. They picked the berries, roasted them and then steeped them in hot water… and appreciated the boost of energy. Either way, the Kaldi story is the basis for the discovery of coffee.

You can read more about this legend in our article The Beginner’s Guide To Coffee Beans.

Now, let’s fast forward a few hundred years to when Ethiopia became a major exporter of coffee. The country’s high altitude and fertile soil made it the perfect place to grow coffee beans. People all around the world couldn’t get enough of that sharp, flavourful caffeine. This, in turn, lead to exports of coffee plants, which have been grown all over the world. Coffee grows best between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn on each of the equator. Although it began in Ethiopia, there are now many varieties and flavour profiles. So here’s to Kaldi, his curious goats, and the delicious drink that keeps us all going!

Flavour Profile of Ethiopian Coffee

There are many different regions in Ethiopia that produce high quality coffee beans. The three main regions are Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harrar. Each region has its own characteristics that make their coffee beans stand out. The primary coffees of all three regions are of the Arabica variety.

Sidamo Coffee

First is the region of Sidamo. Sidamo is approximately 350 km west-south-west of the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. This region produces some of the best coffee in the world. It’s grown at high altitudes in the region’s fertile soil. The result is a coffee that is rich, full-bodied, and has a complex flavour profile. One of the best things about Ethiopian Sidamo coffee is its versatility. Whether you like your coffee black or with a splash of milk, this coffee is delicious. Its flavours range from fruity to floral, with hints of chocolate and nuts. It’s no wonder that this coffee is a favorite among coffee aficionados worldwide. If you want a coffee that transports you to the green hills of Ethiopia with every sip, Sidamo is the way to go.

Yrgecheffe Coffee

The second area is around the town of Yrgecheffe. This is about 300 km south of Addis Ababa. It’s an area known for its high-quality coffee production. This coffee is grown at high altitudes like our previous Ethiopia Sidamo coffee. But what sets Yrgecheffe coffee apart is its flavour profile. It’s known for its fruity and floral notes, complemented by hints of citrus and chocolate. The coffee is full-bodied with a bright, clean taste. Yrgecheffe coffee is perfect for espresso drinks as well as drip coffee. It satisfies any coffee lover’s cravings. Yrgecheffe coffee is a must-try for anyone looking to experience quality Ethiopian coffee.

Harrar Coffee

The third main growing area features Harrar coffee. This coffee is grown in the eastern highlands of Ethiopia near the city of Harrar. Harrar is over 350 km east of Addis Ababa, quite different from Sidamo and Yrgecheffe. Coffee from here is grown at an altitude of over 4,500 feet. This and the region’s volcanic soil produces coffee beans that are full of flavour and aroma. Harrar is fruity and has wine-like notes, with hints of blueberry, chocolate, and spice. This coffee is also known for its distinct aroma, which is often described as sweet berry and fruit salad. If you’re looking for a coffee that’s bold, complex, and full of flavour, Harrar coffee is an excellent choice.

Brewing Ethiopian Coffee

Aeropress, bialetti, French Press, and chemex coffee brewers

If you’re looking to brew your own Ethiopian coffees, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, freshness is always important, and grind helps. Be sure to use fresh roasted coffee, and grind the beans right before brewing. Second, the method of brewing makes a difference. In our opinion, Ethiopian coffees are best brewed using a pour-over method or a French press. These methods bring out the coffees’ unique flavours and complexity. For more information check out our article What is a French Press?

One of our favourite ways to try any coffee is to cup it. This is a specific tasting process used to test coffees. It’s designed to make certain all steps and stages of tasting are the same for a fair comparison. It’s also a great way to learn more about your coffee. Often you find flavours you took for granted! For more info on cupping, read our article Cupping Coffee: The Ultimate Tasting Guide.

Cupper's Ethiopian Coffee Roasts

Our love of Ethiopian coffees has made these a mainstay in Cupper’s coffee offerings. It speaks to the quality of Ethiopian coffee in that they are amazing at pretty much any roast level. So we have several roasts of our various Ethiopian coffees that our customers love and enjoy. The final results keep our customers happy, caffeinated, and coming back for more!

Coffee roasting is an ever-changing art and science all at the same time. To learn more about our roaster and how we roast coffee, read our post The Ultimate Guide to Coffee Roasting

Ethiopia Yrgecheffe (Medium Roast)

First is our Ethiopian Yrgecheffe done as a medium roast coffee. This coffee is one of our top requested coffees. It’s always a customer favourite! When you have a cup, you’ll love the way the aroma tickles your senses with a hint of citrus and soft caramel. And the texture and mouth feel? It’s so smooth and velvety, it’s like a warm hug in a mug.

The flavour profile is out of this world. Think cocoa nibs, brown sugar, and cashew, with a subtle hint of spice. It doesn’t have any lingering aftertastes, so it frees your flavour buds up for another sip. It’s no wonder this coffee is always in demand.

Ethiopia Yrgecheffe Light City Roast

Second, our Yrgecheffe Light City Roast coffee is a whole other level of exceptional. It’s stunning how adjusting the roast creates a completely new experience! Get ready for a burst of vibrancy and brightness that’ll make your taste buds sing. It has hints of lemon and green apple. Then in the middle, it takes a turn. We’re calling the sweetness in this coffee roast “crème brûlée” because it’s that good. Don’t miss the delicate hibiscus note at the end – it’s the perfect finishing touch.

Ethiopia Harrar Longberry

Our third coffee is a treat. If you’re a coffee fan, you’re going to love our Ethiopia Longberry Harrar. This one-of-a-kind coffee is from select family-owned farms in the Hararri region. The cherries are hand-sorted with care, and sun-dried to perfection. The result is a cup of coffee that’s unrivaled by any other.
 
We take our time with this one, roasting it to a lovely medium level that brings out all the amazing flavours. And boy, are there some flavours to be had! The dry edge reminds us of a good merlot, while the rich aroma is heavenly. But the real star of the show is the blueberry note that adds a subtle sweetness to the earthy undertones. This Harrar Longberry is something to behold.

Diner Joe Dark Roast

And then we come to our fourth Ethiopian coffee roast. Diner Joe has a long history with us. It’s one of our flagship Joe coffees, and we’ve been roasting it since near the beginning of Cupper’s.
 
If you are a dark roast maven, then you need look no further. This coffee is our beautiful Yrgecheffe roasted to a dark perfection. But Diner Joe is anything but ordinary. There’s lots of deep, dark richness you’d expect in a dark roast. It also has subtle berry-like undertones that’ll keep you on your toes. You’ll notice a hint of toasted coconut in the aroma that’s downright delightful. It’s the kind of coffee that’ll take you on a journey, no matter where you are.
No matter which Ethiopian coffee you try, there’s so much to enjoy and appreciate. Add the flexibility of it being amazing at any roast level, and they’re stunning. We often use them in our blends as well, so there’s so many options to try.
 
Ethiopian coffees will always be a part of Cupper’s main offerings… our customers demand them, plain and simple. Moreover we’re always very happy to oblige!