Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee: it is in the forests of the Kaffa region that Coffea Arabica grew wild. Coffee is "Bun" or "Buna" in Ethiopia, so Coffee Bean is quite possibly a poor anglicized interpretation of "Kaffa Bun". We consider Ethiopian coffees to be some of the best in the world, and extreme genetic diversity of the coffee shrub is certainly part of the reason why. Most of the coffee is either wet-processed - resulting in a vividly bright cup, with fruit and floral notes - or dry-processed with the fruit skin intact. The latter technique produces a very different, rustic fruited flavor profile, and with thicker body.

Coffea Arabica was also found in the Harar region quite early, either brought from the Kaffa forests or from closer areas around the Sudan border. It is entirely possible that slaves taken from the forests chewed coffee cherry and spit out the seeds, thus spreading it into the Harar region, through which the Muslim slave trade route passed.

Ethiopian coffees are available from some regions as dry-processed, from some regions as washed, or as both. The difference between the cup profiles produced by "natural" and washed methods is profound. Washed Sidamo, Yirga Cheffe and Limmu have lighter body and less earthy/wild tastes in the cup then their dry-processed kinfolk.

Essentially, coffee is a type of produce, and Ethiopian coffee reminds me more and more of this fact. When you find a really great coffee like the dry-processed types from the South, it is like eating Michigan peaches at the height of the season - sweet, juicy, fruity, and ripe with flavor. But then those peaches are gone, and you hope that the next season will produce the same results. Similarly, the cup profile of these coffees can be equally amazing, but when they're gone, they're gone. If all the factors line up just right, it might be the same next year. But then again, maybe not.

Ethiopian coffees can vary greatly from lot to lot. It takes a whole lot of cupping to find the specific lot of coffee that is superior to the rest. When I find the best coffee, I buy the majority of the year's production immediately, leaving a small opening in case any other good lots come along later in the season. With dry-processed Ethiopian coffee we're able to do this at the beginning of the season. These early coffees tend to be best, which is in contradiction with many other origins where the earliest are often underdeveloped.

We have many pictures and notes about Ethiopia coffee in our travelogs, namely a cupping trip to Addis and an interesting trek to Dire Dawa and Harar in the east. Since that first trip I've been back every year covering the regions in the West and South in particular - usually 2-4 times per harvest.

No coffees are currently available from this origin. The review is our most recent offering, provided for reference.
Ethiopia Dry-Process Yirga Cheffe Konga
"Special Coffee" at the Konga coffee mill in Yirga Cheffe
Appearance.6 d per 300 grams, 15-18 Screen
GradeGrade 1
ProcessingDry Process (Natural)
RegionYirga Cheffe
Varietal(s)Heirloom Varietals
RoastCity+ roast will emphasize the clean and sweet fruit notes, with a more almond roast taste. Darker roasts develop rich chocolate notes
This was a very high-scoring dry-processed coffee we selected from many samples. Located in the Gedeo zone area of Yirga Cheffe, it is also home to some the most beautiful coffees we buy. This lot of Konga is in an area of Yirga Cheffe with a range of 1900-2100 meters, and is dry-processed on raised beds. Smallholder farmers from around the region delivery their heirloom Ethiopian coffee varietals to the station where it is weighed and then sun dried before being delivered to Addis Ababa for sale. This lot is a "clean" version of the process with its wide array of fruit characteristics easily perceptible. This coffee was prepared to Grade 1 specifications, and while we still have occasional quaker beans in the roast (from under-ripe cherries), these are minimal compared to other super-grade dry-processed coffees. We had a dry process lot from Konga last year as well, and as a Grade 3 prep, it was definitely more on the rustic side. Not the case with this year's Grad 1 lot, with fruits that are much more clear on the pallet and a fairly bright citric aspect that makes for a more "complete" cup of coffee. The dry fragrance is so sweet, with raw red honey and intense stone fruits. There's a mix of dried strawberries and chocolate too, along with a whiff of macadamia nut. A butterscotch note comes on strong off the steaming hot grounds, with a smell of tropical fruit punch, pie filling, and strawberry jam. A floral note sort of hangs in the air and reminds me this comes from Yirga Cheffe - tantalizing! There's a smattering of fruit flavors that emerge from the cup - grape candy, pomello, grapefruit, pear juice, strawberry, blueberry - on and on. It verges on overwhelming, but in the best of ways. Unlike many naturals we tasted this year, the fruits in Konga aren't over ripe/winey, or "dusty" in flavor. They're sweet, and much more discernible. There's also a nice floral jasmine flavor that really ties the whole profile together. The body is big and juicy, and conveys fruit flavors nicely. We cupped this coffee at City+ and Full City, and lighter roasts have a bit of roasted almond in the finish. Not a bad thing at all, but different from the cacao-centric finish tasted in darker roasts. This really is a beautiful coffee, and one that is perfect to spring on those friends or relatives who tell you all coffees taste the same. Uh, no they do not.