The traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia

Ethiopia

HISTORY

Growing, processing and drinking coffee has been a part of everyday life in Ethiopia for centuries, with trees growing wild in forests which were eventually cultivated for household use and commercial sale. For this reason, Ethiopia is known as the "birthplace" of Arabica coffee and did not introduce coffee as a cash crop, unlike the vast majority of other coffee-growing countries.


Coffee continues to have a significant role in everyday life and is still commonly enjoyed as part of a "ceremonial" preparation to gather family, friends and associates for community and conversation. The senior woman of the household will roast the coffee in a pan, grind it and mix with water in a brewing pot known as a jebena. The strong liquid is served in small cups. Fresh boiling water is added to brew the coffee two more times, the entire process taking around an hour, and is considered a display of hospitality. Just under half of the country's annual production of around 6.5 million bags is consumed domestically, with approximately 3.5 million bags being exported.


The majority of coffee farmers are smallholders and sustenance farmers with less than 1 hectare of land and the average producer grows relatively little for commercial sale. There are some large privately owned estates and co-operatives.



PROCESSING AND PROFILE

Processing at large privately owned estates is often performed on-site by hired labor. The majority of small farmers take their cherries to the nearest washing station where the cherries are sold, blended with other farmers' lots, and processed according to the methods selected by the washing station. Co-op members take their cherries to be weighed and processed at co-op owned washing stations, which allows for greater traceability.


Coffee profiles vary based on a number of factors including variety, process, microregion, and processing method. Generally, naturally processed coffees will have more pronounced fruit and deep chocolate tones, often with a wine-like characteristic and syrup body. Washed coffees will generally be lighter with more acidity.



THE ETHIOPIAN COMMODITY EXCHANGE

Established by the government in 2008, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) with the intention of democratizing the commodities market and introducing standardization for smallholders and large plantations alike in order to improve overall economic health and stability in the agricultural sector. The ECX provided all farmers with an open and reliable market with a relatively stable price.


At inception the ECX required all coffee not produced by a private estate or co-operative to be sold through the Exchange. This established a guaranteed market and price for farmers but eradicated all but the most basic information for traceability. Additionally, the requirement to treat the coffee as a commodity imposed rules aimed at duplicability e.g. 100 bags of Grade 1 washed Yirgacheffe bought in December must be the same as 100 bags of Grade 1 washed Yirgacheffe bought in August. Coffees are assigned grades based on their uniformity, cleanliness, and absence of defect without consideration of flavor.


The specialty-coffee industry challenged the changes, and after negotiations the ECX established that washing-station information be made available. More recently, the ECX voted to allow the direct sale of coffee from washing-stations which will greatly enhance traceability and allow for relationship building along the chain.

Overview

GROWING REGIONS

Sidama (including Yirgacheffe), Harrar, Limu, Djimma, Lekempti, Wallega, Gimbi


COMMON VARIETIES

Heirloom Ethiopian varieties including Kudhome, Gesha, Djimma, and others


PROCESSING METHODS

Washed and Natural


HARVEST PERIOD

October - January