The location of where the first arabica coffee was grown, Ethiopia is considered the birthplace of coffee. Today, half of the coffee produced in Ethiopia is for domestic consumption, with the other half being shipped internationally to be utilised in coffee shops and kitchens all around the world.
1. Ethiopia has the perfect growing conditions.
In Ethiopia, you can find over a thousand different kinds of coffee. Here, coffee trees have grown in the wild for centuries as the country’s environment is ideal for growing coffee without there being a need to add anything to it.
In Ethiopia, you can find over 100 different strains of the arabica species. Here, coffee trees have grown in the wild for centuries as the country’s environment is ideal for growing high quality coffee.
One of the main reasons why this area has such excellent growing conditions is the high elevations. Additionally, the depth of the soil and the lushness of the vegetation helps to create an environment conducive to excellent coffee. In fact, in Ethiopia, almost all coffees are grown without the application of agricultural chemicals, which contrasts significantly with how coffee is grown in other parts of the world.
2. Ethiopian coffee beans are washed or naturally processed.
After the beans have been grown, coffee farmers in Ethiopia either wash or naturally process them, which significantly impacts the resulting taste. When coffee beans are processed in this way, they have bright and complex flavour notes, which results in a clean tasting cup of coffee. No wonder it is considered the best coffee in the world by many coffee connoisseurs!
One of the main reasons that Ethiopian coffee is so popular is because of its unique flavour characteristics that are mostly bright fruited and floral, with higher acidity and a light to medium body. Naturally processed single origin coffee beans are known to have fruity tones and complex blueberry notes, as well as bright acidity and a medium body. On the other hand, washed coffee beans tend to have flavour characteristics more similar to jasmine or lemongrass and are lighter on the palate.
3. Ethiopia is the fifth-largest coffee-producing nation in the world.
Every year, Ethiopia produces more than 6.5 million bags of coffee, with over half of them remaining inside the country for domestic use. As the fifth-largest coffee-producing nation in the world, Ethiopia is the highest producing coffee nation in Africa and is responsible for 3% of the global coffee market. When it comes to coffee, the country has a yearly export revenue of more than $840 million.
In 2008, the Ethiopian government established the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX), which standardises the process of selling coffee by establishing pricing models and guarding growers against market variability. As coffee in Ethiopia is primarily grown by local farmers, the ECX makes it a lot easier and straightforward for them to sell to international markets. Currently, half of the coffee exported from Ethiopia is sent to Europe, with another 1/4 to Asia and the remaining 1/4 to North America.
Since the establishment of ECX, Ethiopia has significantly improved and streamlined its coffee production and transformed it into a stabilised asset. As a result of ECX, once farmers have harvested their beans, they are delivered to warehouses where they are graded by region, physical qualities, and cupping experience. The next phase is to sell this coffee to exporters and brokers, who organise the selling and shipment process around the world.
4. Ethiopians love to host coffee ceremonies.
Coffee is so vital to Ethiopian culture that they often host coffee ceremonies as a social gathering. During these ceremonies, guests will spend two to three hours drinking coffee, often every day. Being invited to a coffee ceremony is an important milestone in any friendship or relationship as an invitation signifies respect and friendship.
To prepare for an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, the coffee beans are roasted in a pan, ground by hand, and then brewed over an open fire. The hosts then serve the coffee to guests, who drink it with lots of sugar and never with milk. To symbolise connection among generations, the youngest child in the group serves the coffee, and the oldest male always gets their pour first.
Guests have three rounds of coffee which are accompanied by snacks such as bread or popcorn. Each round of coffee is made by adding more water to the pot and reboiling it, which makes each brew slightly weaker than the previous one. Throughout the coffee ceremony, guests discuss politics, community activities, and other aspects of local life and culture.
5. Ethiopian coffee should be purchased from specialty roasters.
If you have never tried Ethiopian coffee before, you are in for a treat. If you are ready to taste the best coffee in Dubai (or wherever you reside), then you know what you need to do. For example, THREE Coffee has a single origin espresso called Ardi G1 from the region of Sidama. This is a naturally processed coffee displaying tropical and citrus notes with a floral aroma.
Another option is the Ethiopia Worka G1 which is bursting with flavour, including tasting notes of tropical fruit, purple fruit and citrus. This particular coffee is grown in Yirgacheffe, a locale that boasts high altitudes, consistent rainfall, fertile soil and knowledgeable farmers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that coffee produced in this region is considered the best of the best.
No matter what type of coffee you are purchasing, you want to make sure you are buying it from a specialty coffee roaster who is known for their ability to curate the best tasting coffee beans from around the world. Unlike commodity coffee, which is cheaply bought in significant quantities and blended together by huge manufacturers, speciality coffee refers to bags of coffee that are bought in small lots by independent roasters who produce small batches of high-quality product.
So, next time you are shopping for a bag of coffee, make sure to try Ethiopian beans produced by a speciality roaster.
Have you ever tried Ethiopian coffee? If so, what do you think about it? If not, is it something you are going to seek out next time you need a cup of caffeine? Let us know your thoughts and any additional questions you have in the comments below!
Drew Dennehy is the co-founder of THREE Coffee, one of the region’s leading specialty coffee companies, headquartered in Dubai. His passion for coffee has led to the pursuit of career opportunities around the world from New Zealand and Europe to the United Arab Emirates. Drew’s goal is to enhance coffee experiences and ensure the industry is sustainable at every level. “We will achieve this by telling the story of the farmers who make each cup possible.”