The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Coffee Growing Region

By Megan Dority — / Coffee Talk

Everything You Need to Know About Yirgacheffe 

Ethiopia is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of coffee—specifically arabica coffee. Beans from this country are highly sought after and a staple ingredient in many coffees and cafés across the globe. Although coffee is grown all over the world, most coffee drinkers refer to Ethiopia as the most distinguished coffee growing region in the world.

The main coffee growing regions in Ethiopia include: Harrar, Limu, Sidamo, Guji and Yirgacheffe. Due to its prestige, you’ll notice coffee going by the name of its origin, such as “Ethiopian Yirgacheffe”—the ultimate stamp of approval for coffee lovers around the world. Especially when it’s Fair Trade and Organic Certified—that’s premium goodness. 

A coffee farm in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia featuring a mom and a toddler walking through the farm.[Provided by Falcon Coffees]

So, why is Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee so well-regarded? We’ll get to that after another cup of coffee—let’s start with the basics:

Where is Yirgacheffe?

Yirgacheffe is part of the Sidamo region located in southern Ethiopia, where coffee beans thrive. The warm and tropical climate allows the coffee plants to grow naturally, thanks to high elevations, thick vegetation and healthy soil. And better yet, Ethiopian coffee farming history and traditions are free of pesticides—making it a great choice if you’re looking for a sustainable, organic coffee.

The high altitudes of this mountainous region do come with some challenges. Grown at altitudes of 2,000 meters above sea level, the coffee plants take longer to mature their beans. That means the trees must work harder to bear fruit in these conditions. However, the more time they spend maturing, the more time they have to absorb flavors. The end result? A fuller, well-balanced coffee graced with floral and fruity notes.

Why is Yirgacheffe one of the most noteworthy coffee growing regions in the world?

  1. The long-standing farming history and traditions allow the beans to be naturally harvested without chemicals, making it organic and sustainable.
  2. High elevations help the coffee beans become sweeter.
  3. Wet-processing or washing makes for a clean finish and ensures that some of the delicate tastes common in Ethiopian coffees really shines. 
  4. Wider genetic variety means more flavor notes.
  5. Unique, intense, fruit-forward flavored coffee is guaranteed.

What does Yirgacheffe Coffee Taste Like?

Yirgacheffe is known for its sweet flavor and aroma with bright acidity. The taste is clean with distinctive floral notes and offers a vibrant finish. Some of the flavors you can expect when sipping Yirgacheffe coffee include:

  • Peach
  • Lemon
  • Pineapple Flowers
  • Black Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Wine

How Yirgacheffe Coffee Is Produced

Yirgacheffe coffee beans drying in the sun. [Provided by Falcon Coffees]

The thickly forested hills of the Yirgacheffe region are dotted with coffee-growing villages—growing what is known as a “garden coffee.” Around 85% of Ethiopians live rurally and make a living from agriculture—the main cash crop being coffee.

The typical harvest season for Yirgacheffe coffee is from October to December. Once the cherries have been picked, they make their way to the washing stations. The farmers often use handmade Ethiopian baskets to transport the cherries as quickly as they can to the washing stations.

The hand-picked cherries are then washed or wet-processed. Once the mill receives the cherries from the farmers, the cherry skin and most of the pulp is removed by machinery called a pulper.  The removed cherry skins are used by farmers as fertilizer for coffee plants. After the coffee is pulped, it is put in water tanks to ferment, which removes the remaining fruit pulp. Once complete, the coffee is put on raised beds (African beds) to slow dry over 10-20 days. This process produces coffees that have higher acidity and a cleaner finish than natural coffees.

Supporting Yirgacheffe Farmers and Harvesters

While coffee drinkers around the world get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, the Ethiopian farmers face many challenges in their everyday life. Global warming continues to disrupt their agriculture, which is the livelihood of the majority of the Ethiopian population. Ensuring your cup of joe is Fair Trade helps the farmers earn a fair wage and protects the environment.

Supporting Ethiopian Women + Girls

A group of Ethiopian girls running through the Bekoji forest.[Copyright: Girls Gotta Run Foundation]

The Yirgacheffe terrain might be known for its premier coffee beans, but it grows more than that. With challenges facing Ethiopians from political, social and environmental threats, women—and young girls—are often the most vulnerable populations. In Ethiopia, 95% of girls begin their education, but only 10% complete through 12th grade. But—like the beans that grow there, the young girls and women are strong and resilient.

The national sport of running has inspired Ethiopian women and girls to turn a challenge into an opportunity, with many of their runners ending up in the Olympics—largely thanks to training in the high elevation and challenging landscapes. On many baskets used to carry coffee cherries, the national animal of Ethiopia, the lion, appears as a lioness running forward—symbolizing strength, courage and fearlessness—an embodiment of the women of Ethiopia.  

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