Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 16th, 2020. To learn more about Ethiopia, check out our webinar, “What’s Happening in Ethiopia?” with Max Nicholas-Fulmer, Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia, and Haile Andualem.
Ethiopia is, arguably, the most important origin in specialty coffee. It appears on every roaster’s menu, consistently wins competitions like the Good Food Awards, and is generally regarded as the Crown Jewel (heh) of producing countries. As Royal’s Ethiopian buyer, I get to delve deep into this coffee paradise. Composing our lineup of top Fully Washed and Sun Dried Ethiopian selections each year keeps me excited about coffee. But while I do get queried on flavor profiles, recommended applications, annual production, et cetera, the questions I field most by far revolve around a single topic: geography. Admittedly, Ethiopian geography is complex. Much of this has to do with the fact that the country is highly heterogeneous both culturally and linguistically; districts snake over and around each other, creating a patchwork quilt reminiscent of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
In an effort to clarify some of the agreed-upon administrative distinctions, we’ve made this helpful infographic. While Ethiopia is liable to continue to shift and change over the years, this disambiguation can help provide a better understanding of the way land is divided throughout Ethiopia, and can shed some light on the naming conventions of coffees that we bring in year after year. The case in point for this graphic is the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe 1 Natural Kochere Chelelektu Lot 1 Grainpro.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that Yirgacheffe is actually the Woreda directly north of Kochere. Yirgacheffe has become synonymous with coffees from this region, and even with washed Ethiopian coffees in general. From a trade perspective, there are clearly defined geographic boundaries around what may be legally sold as “Yirgacheffe”, actually extending slightly beyond the borders of Gedeo itself to include Gelana Abaya and other adjacent pieces of Oromia province. To many people, Yirgacheffe may represent something altogether more familiar; a flavor profile, an indication of quality, a gestalt. But in reality, it’s the name of a singular place. We hope this infographic can shed some light on the origin we all enjoy so much.