How Many Types of Coffee Are Cultivated in Ethiopia?

Coffee production in Ethiopia is a longstanding tradition, dating back centuries. Ethiopia is the birthplace of Coffea arabica, the coffee plant, and is responsible for about 3% of global coffee production. The country heavily relies on coffee as a major source of export revenue, with around 60% of foreign income coming from different types of coffee.

In 2018, Ethiopia produced 7.5 million 60kg bags of coffee, making it the fifth largest coffee producer in the world. There are between 6 and 10 thousand different types of coffee in Ethiopia, with variations in region, altitude, and cupping scores.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ethiopia is the birthplace of Coffee arabica and plays a significant role in global coffee production.
  • Coffee is a major source of export revenue for Ethiopia.
  • Ethiopia produces between 6 and 10 thousand different types of coffee.
  • Variations in region, altitude, and cupping scores contribute to the diversity of Ethiopian coffee types.
  • Ethiopia is the fifth largest coffee producer in the world.

The History of Ethiopian Coffee

Ethiopia is not only known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage but also as the birthplace of coffee. The history of Ethiopian coffee dates back centuries and is steeped in fascinating legends and traditions.

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One popular legend revolves around a goat herder named Kaldi. According to the tale, Kaldi noticed that his goats became more energetic after consuming the cherries from a certain plant. Curious, he tried the cherries himself and experienced a similar burst of energy. This plant turned out to be the coffee plant, Coffea arabica. From this humble discovery, the energizing effect of coffee started to spread.

While the exact origins of coffee drinking are unclear, it is believed that coffee consumption began in Yemen in the 6th century. From there, it spread to other parts of the Arab world, including Istanbul, Cairo, and Damascus. In Ethiopia, coffee was initially associated with Muslims, and Ethiopian Christians abstained from consuming it until the 19th century.

The popularity of coffeehouses started to rise in Europe and the United States during the 17th century. Coffee became a sought-after commodity, and demand for this stimulating beverage continued to grow. By the 1960s, coffee had firmly established its place as one of the world’s most beloved drinks.

Ethiopian coffee beans

The Origin of Coffee: A Rich Cultural Heritage

Key Points Summary
The legend of Kaldi, the goat herder Kaldi discovered the energizing effects of coffee when he noticed his goats becoming more energetic after consuming coffee cherries.
Early coffee consumption in Yemen Coffee drinking is believed to have begun in Yemen in the 6th century, spreading to other parts of the Arab world.
Association with Muslims and Ethiopian Christians Coffee was initially associated with Muslims, and Ethiopian Christians abstained from consuming it until the 19th century.
Expansion to Europe and the United States Coffeehouses started to appear in Europe and the United States during the 17th century, fueling the demand for coffee.
Global popularity in the 20th century Coffee became a highly sought-after beverage, establishing itself as one of the world’s favorite drinks.

Ethiopian Coffee Politics and the ECX

Ethiopia’s coffee industry has not been without its fair share of political challenges. From 1974 to 1991, the country was under Marxist rule, and coffee farms were consolidated and sold at subsidized prices to the government. This centralized control over coffee production limited the farmers’ ability to negotiate fair prices for their crops. However, in 1991, cooperatives were allowed to form, giving farmers more control over their coffee prices and allowing them to earn a better income.

One of the most significant developments in Ethiopian coffee politics was the establishment of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) in 2008. The ECX was created to facilitate the trade of agricultural commodities, including coffee. While the ECX has made coffee more consistent and standardized, it has also made it difficult to trace the origin of coffee. Currently, the ECX accounts for 90% of Ethiopia’s coffee trade, but there is a growing trend towards purchasing coffee directly from cooperatives.

The Impact of the ECX on Ethiopian Coffee Trade

The establishment of the ECX has had both positive and negative effects on the Ethiopian coffee trade. On the positive side, the ECX has improved market access for small-scale farmers, allowing them to sell their coffee through a more organized and efficient system. This has led to higher prices for growers, increasing their income and improving their livelihoods.

However, one of the major criticisms of the ECX is that it has made it challenging to trace the origin of coffee. With coffee being sold in bulk lots, it becomes difficult to differentiate between coffee from different regions or farms. This lack of traceability has made it harder for consumers who value transparency and want to support specific regions or farmers.

Despite these challenges, the coffee industry in Ethiopia is evolving. Farmers are increasingly forming cooperatives and direct trade relationships to bypass the ECX and have more control over the pricing and branding of their coffee. This shift reflects a growing recognition of the value of Ethiopian coffee and a desire to preserve its unique characteristics and flavors.

Pros of the ECX Cons of the ECX
Improved market access for small-scale farmers Difficult to trace the origin of coffee
Higher prices for coffee growers Limited transparency for consumers
Organized and efficient trade system

The Different Coffee Regions of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is known for its rich coffee heritage and diverse range of coffee flavors. The country is divided into six major coffee regions, each with its own unique characteristics and taste profiles. These regions include:


Sidamo, the birthplace of coffee, offers well-balanced coffees with notes of berries and citrus. The region’s high altitude and fertile soil contribute to the exceptional quality of the coffee beans grown here.


Yirgacheffe is considered one of the best coffee regions in the world. It is renowned for its intense fruity flavors and tea-like body. The coffee from Yirgacheffe often exhibits floral and jasmine notes, making it a favorite among coffee connoisseurs.


Named after an Oromia tribe, Guji produces full-flavored, strong coffee with dark chocolate and floral notes. The region’s coffee is known for its complexity and depth of flavor.


Harar is one of the oldest coffee beans in the world and is known for its distinctive fruity and wine-like flavor. The coffee from this region has a unique and exotic taste profile that sets it apart from other Ethiopian coffees.


Genika is an exclusive Arabica coffee grown in the Bench Maji Zone. This region produces coffee with a deep, spicy taste and a floral aroma. It is known for its complexity and richness.


Limu coffee beans are wet-processed and known for their well-balanced flavors with wine notes. This region produces coffee with a smooth and medium body, making it a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts.

Each of these Ethiopian coffee regions offers a unique and distinct coffee experience. Whether you prefer fruity and floral flavors or deep and spicy notes, Ethiopian coffee has something to offer for every coffee lover.

Ethiopian coffee beans

Table: Ethiopian Coffee Regions and Flavor Profiles

Region Flavor Profile
Sidamo Well-balanced with notes of berries and citrus
Yirgacheffe Intense fruity flavors with a tea-like body
Guji Full-flavored, strong coffee with dark chocolate and floral notes
Harar Distinctive fruity and wine-like flavor
Genika Deep, spicy taste with a floral aroma
Limu Well-balanced flavors with wine notes

The Unique Characteristics of Ethiopian Coffee Beans

Ethiopian coffee beans are highly regarded for their unique characteristics and flavor profiles. The majority of Ethiopian coffee beans are of the Arabica variety, which is known for its superior quality and delicate flavor. These beans are categorized into three main types: Longberry, Shortberry, and Mocha.

Longberry beans are the largest of the three types and are considered to be of the highest quality. They have a well-rounded flavor with bright acidity and floral and fruity notes. Shortberry beans, although smaller in size, are still considered to be of high grade. They offer a slightly sweeter taste and a medium body. Finally, Mocha beans are small and highly prized for their complex flavor profiles. They often exhibit notes of chocolate, spice, and citrus.

Ethiopian coffee beans are processed using two main methods: sun-drying and wet processing. Sun-drying involves placing the coffee cherries on raised drying beds to dry in the sun. This traditional method imparts a distinct flavor to the beans, resulting in a fuller body and unique taste. Wet processing, on the other hand, involves fermenting and washing the cherries before drying, resulting in a cleaner and brighter cup of coffee.

Type of Coffee Bean Description
Longberry Largest beans, high quality, well-rounded flavor, bright acidity, floral and fruity notes
Shortberry Smaller beans, high grade, slightly sweeter taste, medium body
Mocha Small beans with complex flavors, notes of chocolate, spice, and citrus

Ethiopian coffee beans

The unique characteristics of Ethiopian coffee beans can be attributed not only to the variety and processing methods but also to the traditional production practices in Ethiopia. Hand-picking of ripe cherries and minimal mechanization throughout the production process contribute to the overall quality of the beans. These factors combined make Ethiopian coffee beans a favorite among coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

The Impact of Climate Change on Ethiopian Coffee

Climate change poses significant challenges to coffee production in Ethiopia, threatening one of the country’s most vital industries. Rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and the spread of invasive pests are all factors contributing to the potential decline in coffee yields. The consequences of climate change on Ethiopian coffee production could be devastating, with a projected decrease in yields of up to 70%. This not only affects the livelihoods of thousands of coffee farmers but also has broader implications for the country’s economy and global coffee supply.

One of the key issues caused by climate change is the increased uncertainty in weather patterns. Ethiopian coffee-growing regions are experiencing longer dry seasons and reduced rainfall, affecting the overall productivity of coffee plants. Less water availability puts stress on the coffee trees, leading to reduced yields and compromised bean quality. Additionally, changing weather conditions may also impact the flavor profiles of Ethiopian coffee, potentially altering the unique characteristics that make it so sought after in the global market.

Another concern is the loss of forests in Ethiopia, which play a crucial role in coffee cultivation. Forests provide shade and regulate temperatures, creating ideal conditions for coffee growth. However, deforestation has accelerated in recent years due to agricultural expansion and other factors. This loss of forest cover not only disrupts the natural habitat of coffee plants but also removes the protective environment that contributes to optimal coffee production. Without proper shade and temperature regulation, coffee plants become more vulnerable to extreme weather events and diseases, further compromising their ability to thrive.

Impact of Climate Change on Ethiopian Coffee Consequences
Rising temperatures Potential decline in yields
Changes in rainfall patterns Reduced water availability and stress on coffee plants
Invasive pests Threat to coffee plants and bean quality
Loss of forests Disruption of coffee cultivation conditions

To mitigate the impact of climate change on Ethiopian coffee, farmers and policymakers are exploring adaptation strategies. One approach is to relocate coffee farms to higher elevations, where cooler temperatures may support coffee growth in the face of rising temperatures. Another strategy involves implementing farming practices like irrigation to ensure water availability during dry periods and tree shade management to recreate the optimal growing conditions. Sustainable soil conservation techniques can also help preserve the fertility of coffee-growing regions.

Climate Change and Ethiopian Coffee

The future of Ethiopian coffee hinges on the ability to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. It is crucial for the government, farmers, and the international community to work together to find innovative solutions that protect this valuable industry and the livelihoods it supports. By taking decisive action to address climate change’s impact on coffee production, Ethiopia can continue to be a leading producer of exceptional coffee and preserve its rich coffee heritage for generations to come.

Starbucks and Ethiopian Coffee Controversy

The dispute between Starbucks and Ethiopia over the licensing of Ethiopian coffee brands, such as Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe, has sparked controversy and raised important questions about the coffee industry’s impact on farmers. Oxfam America accused Starbucks of blocking Ethiopia’s trademark application, potentially depriving coffee farmers of millions in earnings. The disagreement brought to light the economic significance of Ethiopian coffee and the need to protect the rights and livelihoods of the farmers.

By trademarking regional names, Ethiopia aims to promote its unique coffee and secure higher prices for farmers. However, the opposition to Ethiopia’s trademark application raised concerns about the exploitation of farmers and the lack of transparency in the coffee industry. The Ethiopian government and Oxfam America urged Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement that would ensure fair compensation for Ethiopian coffee farmers and protect their intellectual property rights.

The controversy surrounding Starbucks and Ethiopian coffee exposes the complexities of the global coffee market and the power dynamics between multinational corporations and coffee-producing countries. It highlights the need for ethical practices and fair trade agreements to ensure that farmers receive just compensation for their labor and contributions to the coffee industry.

Ethiopian Coffee Trademarks and Branding

When it comes to Ethiopian coffee, trademarks and branding play a crucial role in preserving the uniqueness and quality of this beloved beverage. Ethiopian coffee growers, importers, and the Ethiopian national government have come together to create networks and branding programs that protect the origins and flavors of Ethiopian coffee.

One of the most notable instances of coffee branding controversy occurred between Starbucks and Ethiopia. The dispute revolved around the licensing of Ethiopian coffee brands, such as Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe. Ethiopia sought to trademark these regional names to indicate their origin and boost prices for farmers. Oxfam America accused Starbucks of blocking Ethiopia’s trademark application, potentially denying coffee farmers millions in earnings.

In response to the dispute, Ethiopian coffee growers and the national government worked to protect their coffee’s uniqueness. By branding and trademarking Ethiopian coffee with regional names, the country aims to generate more revenue from coffee exports and ensure that farmers receive fair compensation for their hard work.

Ethiopian Coffee Trademark Table

Trademark Origin Flavor Profile
Sidamo Sidamo region Fruity, wine-like
Harar Harar region Fruity, distinctive, wine-like
Yirgacheffe Yirgacheffe region Fruity, tea-like

These branding efforts not only protect the interests of Ethiopian coffee farmers but also contribute to preserving the rich history and quality of Ethiopian coffee. Through branding and trademarking, Ethiopian coffee continues to captivate coffee enthusiasts worldwide, offering a taste experience that is both diverse and authentic.

Ethiopian coffee trademarks and branding

Ethiopian Coffee Production and Trade

Ethiopia is renowned for its coffee production, with the industry playing a crucial role in the country’s economy. As the fifth-largest coffee producer globally, Ethiopia employs over 15 million people in the coffee sector. Coffee accounts for 35% of the country’s total export and contributes about 60% of the revenue from abroad. Regions like Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar, and Limu are known for their high-quality coffee, with their unique flavors and characteristics attracting coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

In Ethiopia, coffee production is primarily carried out by small-scale farmers who often work together in cooperatives to sell and process their coffee. These cooperatives provide farmers with more control over the pricing and trading of their coffee, allowing them to have a more direct impact on their livelihoods. Additionally, cooperatives enable farmers to access resources, knowledge, and support to improve their coffee quality and increase their overall productivity.

The export of Ethiopian coffee generates significant revenue for the country. Around 60% of Ethiopia’s foreign income comes from coffee, making it a vital source of economic sustenance. The revenue from coffee trade helps to support various sectors, including infrastructure, education, and healthcare, contributing to the overall development of the country.

Key Points Insights
Ethiopia’s rank in global coffee production Fifth-largest coffee producer
Percentage of Ethiopia’s export revenue from coffee 60%
Number of people employed in the coffee sector Over 15 million
Main regions known for high-quality coffee Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Harrar, Limu
Role of cooperatives in coffee production Providing farmers with control and support


Ethiopian coffee production and trade are vital components of the country’s economy and cultural heritage. With its diverse coffee regions, unique flavors, and traditional production methods, Ethiopia continues to be a significant player in the global coffee industry. The cooperative model allows small-scale farmers to participate actively in the coffee trade, ensuring fair prices and sustainable livelihoods. The revenue generated from coffee exports contributes to the overall development of Ethiopia, supporting crucial sectors and improving the lives of its people. Ethiopia’s rich coffee heritage and commitment to quality make it an essential destination for coffee enthusiasts seeking exceptional flavors and a deeper understanding of the coffee industry.


In conclusion, Ethiopian coffee offers a rich diversity of flavors and characteristics that make it truly unique. From the birthplace of coffee to its importance in the Ethiopian economy, coffee holds a special place in Ethiopian culture and heritage. The different coffee regions, such as Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harar, each have their own distinct profiles, ranging from fruity and citrusy to deep and spicy.

As climate change poses challenges to coffee production, it is crucial for Ethiopia to adapt and implement sustainable practices to preserve its coffee-growing regions. Relocating coffee farms to higher elevations, implementing irrigation systems, and practicing soil conservation are essential steps to ensure the longevity of Ethiopia’s coffee industry.

Ethiopia’s coffee culture is deeply ingrained in the country’s history and daily life. From the traditional coffee ceremony to the pride in producing high-quality coffee, the Ethiopian people have a deep appreciation for this valuable commodity. Coffee enthusiasts worldwide should not miss the opportunity to experience the diverse flavors and aromas of Ethiopian coffee.

In conclusion, the diversity of Ethiopian coffee, combined with its cultural significance, makes it a must-try for any coffee lover. As Ethiopia continues to navigate challenges such as climate change and trademark disputes, the preservation of its coffee industry and the support of small-scale farmers remain vital to ensure a sustainable future for Ethiopian coffee.


How many types of coffee are cultivated in Ethiopia?

There are between 6 and 10 thousand different types of coffee grown in Ethiopia, with variations in region, altitude, and cupping scores.

What is the history of Ethiopian coffee?

The legend of coffee’s discovery in Ethiopia revolves around a goat herder named Kaldi who noticed his goats becoming more energetic after consuming coffee cherries. Coffee consumption began in Yemen in the 6th century and spread to Istanbul, Cairo, and Damascus.

What is the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX)?

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established in 2008 to facilitate the trade of crops, including coffee. It has made coffee more consistent and raised prices for growers, but it has also made it difficult to trace the origin of coffee.

What are the different coffee regions of Ethiopia?

The six major coffee regions in Ethiopia are Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, Guji, Harar, Genika, and Limu. Each region is known for producing coffee with its own unique flavors and characteristics.

What are the unique characteristics of Ethiopian coffee beans?

Ethiopian coffee beans are primarily Arabica and can be categorized into three main types: Longberry, Shortberry, and Mocha. They are processed through either sun-drying or wet processing methods, with traditional production methods contributing to their unique characteristics.

How is climate change affecting Ethiopian coffee production?

Rising temperatures, invasive pests, changes in rainfall patterns, and forest loss pose threats to coffee cultivation in Ethiopia. Climate change has the potential to decrease coffee yields by 70%, and farmers may need to adapt through relocation and farming practices to sustain the industry.

What was the controversy between Starbucks and Ethiopian coffee?

Starbucks was involved in a trademark dispute with Ethiopia over the licensing of Ethiopian coffee brands. The dispute highlighted the economic importance of Ethiopian coffee and the potential impact on farmers’ earnings.

How is Ethiopian coffee protected through trademarks and branding?

Ethiopian coffee growers, importers, and the Ethiopian national government have created networks and branding programs to protect the uniqueness of Ethiopian coffee. Regional names such as Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe are trademarked to indicate their origin.

How significant is Ethiopian coffee production and trade?

Ethiopia is the fifth-largest coffee producer globally, with coffee making up 35% of the country’s total exports and contributing to around 60% of revenue from abroad. It employs over 15 million Ethiopians and plays a vital role in the country’s economy.

What is the conclusion of Ethiopian coffee’s diversity and culture?

Ethiopian coffee offers a diverse range of flavors and characteristics, reflecting its rich history, distinct regions, and traditional production methods. Coffee holds a special place in Ethiopian culture and remains a fascinating destination for coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

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Emily Reynolds

I am an unapologetic coffee aficionado with an insatiable passion for all things java. Pour-overs, French presses, espresso machines—each holds its own thrill, a chance to unlock new levels of taste and aroma. So let the aroma of freshly brewed coffee guide us through the world of flavor and inspiration that is coffee.

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