I have been fascinated by Ethiopian coffees since I experienced my first coffee taste explosion way back in 2005. I had just started my first coffee company and from the beginning I wanted us to find and source the best coffees possible. Ethiopia was the obvious place to start and I have been on that journey ever since!
I recently visited coffee farms in the Oromia-Jimma region in the south of Ethiopia and spent 5 days high up in the lush mountains, completely submerged in the wonderful landscapes, the coffee trees and the coffee people. It was, as always, a beautiful and humbling experience. And picking red coffee cherries from the tree is tough work I can tell you!
Ethiopia is a country which is truly unique in the world of coffee – it is well known as the birthplace of the plant “Coffea Arabica” from which we now drink arguably the most popular beverage in the world. As the legend of Kaldi and his goats will inform you, coffee has been cultivated here longer than anywhere else and there are more named and unnamed varieties in a single region than there are in the entire rest of the coffee producing countries of the world. I discovered this fact on a visit to a genetic tree Bank in Jimma where they have catalogued more than 6000 individual tree varietals within the Arabica family, and they are all indigenous to Ethiopia!
The country is rugged and mountainous and coffee is grown in many geographically and climatically diverse areas, on different soils with more or less water, with sunlight filtered by tall trees, from the wild dense forests, to the intensely planted and pruned plantations. As I witnessed as I trekked across many small and large plantations, the result is a perfect rainbow of flavour possibilities. And therein lies my complete obsession with Ethiopia coffees!
My experience with Specialty Coffee began in 2004 and I learned about flavours, acidity and origin coffees specifically through access to lots of Ethiopian coffee. At that time we were roasting coffees from many of the coffee growing regions of Ethiopia including Harrar and Limmu, Lekempti and Sidamo. And so my fascination with Ethiopia and its coffee started there.
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At Jones Brothers we have been using washed Sidamo (grades 2 and 4) for a few years and have been experimenting with different Yirgacheffes, as these have become more widely available in recent years. There is a real reverence shown towards Yirgacheffe coffees within the coffee industry as a lot of us realise that they are a great way to introduce Specialty Coffee to a wider consumer audience because they are most often very drinkable and little bit sweeter and so easier on the palate.
The primary purpose of my trip to Ethiopia was to visit our new preferred primary producer at the Galeh Limmu Kossa Farm Estate in Jimma and to taste some new coffees which I thought could extend our range and broaden the appeal of our Ethiopian coffees. Try our “Horny Goat” from Guji region, and discover more about why we choose such special coffee beans on this article.
We want to demonstrate the fascinating possibilities that Ethiopia has to offer in coffee and attract more consumers to this wonderful land. See here for our full coffee list that you can order for home.
In my next article, “Ethiopia – A whole world of coffee in one country pt 2” I will explore the coffee growing regions of Ethiopia in a bit more detail.
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