Widely believed to be the origin of the Coffea arabica plant, Ethiopia remains a powerhouse in the coffee world to this day.
Ethiopia is the world’s seventh largest coffee producer, and the top producer on the African continent. Residents of the country account for half of its consumption, and the other half is exported to major markets like the EU, North America, and East Asia. Production methods remain mostly unchanged, with most cultivation and drying done by hand.
The government’s role in Ethiopia’s coffee production is unique, with an established Coffee and Tea Authority that acts as a part of the federal government. It sets regulations that fix prices washing stations must pay to buy beans from farmers, requires extended licensing in the domestic market, and maintains the previous regime’s decision to turn all washing stations into farmers cooperatives. It also regulates trademarks on regional names, including Harar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Limu.
Many cooperative and fair trade organizations exist today. One such organization is the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU,) an agricultural cooperative federation. It was extablished in 1999 with 34 cooperatives and $90,000 in capital. Today, it represents over 100,000 cooperatives and its exports have exceeded 7,000 metric tons, with sales approaching $40 million USD per year. It represents growers, processors, and exporters in the Oromia Region, located in southern and western Ethiopia. The union chooses to cut out middlemen and instead sorts, roasts, and exports its own coffee directly. They exclusively grow arabica coffee, and produce both organic and conventionally grown beans. 70 percent of the union’s gross profits are returned to its cooperatives. Its goals are as follows: improve farmer’s income by exporting their coffee; maintan the quality of coffee production; improve and maintain the sustainability of the coffee industry; improve the quality and productibity of Ethiopian coffee; regulate and stabilize local markets; provide farmers and clients with reliable service. This union has had a unique and positive impact on Ethiopia’s coffee production.
The Harrar region lies in the Eastern Highlands of Ethiopia. As one of the main growing regions in Ethiopia, Harrar has a reputation for producing distinctive wild-varietal Arabica. Once picked, the coffee can go through a variety of milling processes. Harrar beans are usually natural processed coffees, which produces the distinct berry notes it is most recognized for. The coffee is labeled as longberry (large), shortberry (smaller), or Mocha (peaberry). Ethiopian Harrar can have a strong dry edge, winy to fruit like acidity, rich aroma, and a heavy body. In the best Harrars one can observe an intense aroma of blueberries or blackberries.