Ethiopian Coffea arabica is a species of Coffea originally indigenous to the mountains of the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. It is also known as the "coffee shrub of Arabia", "mountain coffee" or "arabica coffee". Coffea arabica is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated, being grown in southwest Ethiopia for well over 1,000 years.

Wild plants grow to between 9 and 12 m (29 and 39 ft) tall, and have an open branching system; the leaves are opposite, simple elliptic-ovate to oblong, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.8 in) long and 4–8 cm (1.6–3.2 in) broad, glossy dark green. The flowers are white, 10–15 mm in diameter and grow in axillary clusters. The seeds are contained in a drupe (though commonly called a "cherry"; the plural form is simply "cherry"—used only when referring to the fruit of C. arabica—when referring to the actual cherry fruit, the appropriate plural is "cherries") 10–15 mm in diameter, maturing bright red to purple and typically contains two seeds (the coffee seeds).

 

History

The coffee plant, Coffea arabica, originates in Ethiopia. According to legend, the 9th-century goatherder Kaldi discovered the coffee plant after noticing the energizing effect the plant had on his flock, but the story did not appear in writing until 1671 and is probably apocryphal.

 

Production

 

Ethiopia is the world's seventh largest producer of coffee, and Africa's top producer, with 260,000 metric tonnes in 2006. Half of the coffee is consumed by Ethiopians, and the country leads the continent in domestic consumption. The major markets for Ethiopian coffee are the EU (about half of exports), East Asia (about a quarter) and North America. The total area used for coffee cultivation is estimated to be about 4,000 km2 (1,500 sq mi), the size is unknown due to the fragmented nature of the coffee farms. The way of production has not changed much since the 10th century, with nearly all work, cultivating and drying, still done by hand.

The revenues from coffee exports account for 10% of the annual government revenue, because of the large share the industry is given very high priority, but there are conscious efforts by the government to reduce the coffee industry's share of the GDP by increasing the manufacturing sector.

The Coffee and Tea Authority, part of the federal government, handles anything related to coffee and tea, such as fixing the price at which the washing stations buy coffee from the farmers. This is a legacy from a nationalization scheme set in action by the previous regime that turned over all the washing stations to farmers cooperatives.  The domestic market is heavily regulated through licenses, with the goal of avoiding market concentration.

 

Regional varieties

 

Ethiopian coffee beans that are grown in either the Harar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe or Limu regions are kept apart and marketed under their regional namThese regional varieties are trademarked names with the rights owned by Ethiopia.

 

Sidamo

"Ethiopia Sidamo" is a type of Arabica coffee of single origin grown exclusively in the Sidamo Province of Ethiopia. Like most African coffees, Ethiopia Sidamo features a small and greyish bean, yet is valued for its deep, spice and wine or chocolate-like taste and floral aroma. The most distinctive flavour notes found in all Sidamo coffees are lemon and citrus with bright crisp acidity. Sidamo coffee includes Yirgachefe Coffee and Guji Coffee. Both coffee types are very high quality.

 

Harar

Harar is in the Eastern highlands of Ethiopia. It is one of the oldest coffee beans still produced and is known for its distinctive fruity, wine flavour. The bean is medium in size with a greenish-yellowish colour. It has medium acidity and full body and a distinctive mocha flavour. Harar is a dry processed coffee bean with sorting and processing done almost entirely by hand. Though processing is done by hand, the laborers are extremely knowledgeable of how each bean is categorized.

 

Beans

 

Ethiopian coffee beans of the species Coffea arabica can be divided into three categories: Longberry, Shortberry, and Mocha. Longberry varieties consist of the largest beans and are often considered of the highest quality in both value and flavour. In some cases this is true but more often than not it is just a marketing pitch. Shortberry varieties are smaller than the Longberry beans but, are considered a high grade bean in Eastern Ethiopia where it originates. Also the Mocha variety is a highly prized commodity. Mocha Harars are known for theirpeaberry beans that often have complex chocolate, spice and citrus notes.

©2020 Explore Ethiopia Advisory, PLC