What Does Ethiopian Coffee Taste Like?

What Does Ethiopian Coffee Taste Like?
Ethiopian Coffee Forest / Partnerships for Forests

Ethiopian coffees taste like fruits and dark chocolate.

While not always the case, Ethiopian coffees are prized for their fruity profile (strawberry, blueberry, grape) and floral aroma.

Ethiopian farmers only grow Arabica coffee, but use both washed and natural processes.

Natural processed Ethiopian coffees are often described with flavor notes of blueberry, kiwi, lychee, and strawberry.

Wash processed Ethiopian coffees have been known to taste like peach, plum, stone fruit, currant, jasmine, and lemon.

Depending on the roast profile, Ethiopian coffees can also exhibit characteristics of vanilla, toffee, and milk/dark chocolate.

What are the Main Coffee Regions in Ethiopia?

Regions, Zones, Woreda, Kebeles

Ethiopia is geographically organized into eleven regions, which are then subdivided into zones, woredas, and kebeles.

  • Regions are similar to states or provinces
  • Zones are territories within regions
  • Woredas are similar to municipalities or districts
  • Kebeles are similar to villages or neighborhoods

Most coffee is grown in the southwestern regions of Ethiopia.

Best Ethiopian Coffee Regions

The most famous coffee growing regions (in no particular order) are:

  1. Guji
  2. Yirgacheffe
  3. Sidama
  4. Harrar
  5. Djimmah/Limu
  6. Kaffa

Each region’s coffees taste different, because of differences in terroir. The coffee’s natural environment: its soil, altitude, and water all contribute to differences in flavor and aroma.

When purchasing a bag of Ethiopian coffee beans, you can align your expectations of the coffee’s profile by pairing its geographic region with the roaster’s supporting tasting notes.

1. Ethiopia Guji

Ethiopia Guji coffees can be washed or natural.

Roasters compare washed Guji coffees to: peach, plum, stone fruit, milk chocolate, toffee, jasmine.

While historically, natural processed coffees from Ethiopia were consumed domestically and not seen fit for export, natural Guji’s have become very popular in recent years.

Natural Guji coffees tend to taste juicy and sweet, with profiles of strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla.

2. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffees can be washed or natural.

In the 90s, Yirgacheffe was seen as a highly-sought, elusive coffee, similar to how geisha coffee is treated today.

Washed coffees from Yirgacheffe are known for their iconic blueberry and floral notes. Roasters have described washed Yirgacheffes as: red grape, blueberry, floral, rose, violet, and tea.

Natural process coffees from Yirgacheffe have been compared to kiwi, lychee, wine, peach, and red berries.

3. Ethiopia Sidama

Not to be confused with Sidamo which used to be a region that encapsulated both Yirgacheffe and Guji.

Coffees from Sidama can be washed or natural.

Washed coffees from Sidama tend to have notes of spice, lemon, and bergamot.

Roasters have compared coffees from Sidama to tart berries and cane sugar.

4. Ethiopia Harrar

Often washed, Ethiopia Harrar coffees tend to express flavors of dried fruit (blueberry and strawberry), lemongrass, bell pepper, and wine.

5. Ethiopia Djimmah & Ethiopia Limu

Often washed, coffees from the Djimmah/Limu regions can taste like rose, lemon, and tart berries.

6. Ethiopia Kaffa

Kaffa is the birthplace of coffee and is one of the few origins where coffee is still wildly grown in forests.

Coffees in Kaffa are either wildly grown varieties, heirloom and landrace, or intentionally bred “JARC” varieties.

What is Heirloom Coffee? Heirloom vs Landrace

Wildly grown coffees are broadly categorized as “heirloom” whereas “landrace” coffees tend to be a bit more specific to a specific region or a geographical environment. Most roasters use heirloom and landrace interchangeably.

JARC Coffee Varieties - Jimma Agricultural Research Center

The Jimma Agricultural Research Center was established in 1967 in response to coffee rust that diseased coffees in Ethiopia. JARC coffee seeds are grown to promote disease resistance and crop yield.

While knowledge of these varieties have yet to permeate into the culture of specialty coffee drinkers, JARC flavor profiles have been described as follows:

JARC 74110

Roasters describe JARC 74110 as sweet and complex and often compare the taste to chamomile, red currant, blueberry, and kiwi.

JARC 74158

JARC 74158 tends to have honey, floral, and apple notes.

JARC 74112

JARC 74112 has been described as orange, stone fruit, tropical, and raisin flavored.

JARC 74

Roasters have described JARC 74 as floral and citrusy, with flavors of stone fruit.

How to Buy Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopian coffees taste like fruits and dark chocolate.

When buying a bag of Ethiopian coffee, pay attention to the growing region and the variety.

Two of the most popular growing regions are Guji and Yirgacheffe. With coffees from Guji, you can expect juicy sweetness, reminiscent of raspberry and strawberry. Whereas with coffees from Yirgacheffe, you can taste high florality and tea-like delicacy.

Use this guide to explore different coffee varieties in the world’s original coffee growing region.