Ethiopia, Top 10 Best Coffees and Growing Areas

You have probably heard of Ethiopian coffees, which are always among the best quality coffees in the world. If you know anything about the history of coffee, then you know that coffee originated in Ethiopia, right in the Horn of Africa. This country is famous for the story of Kaldi, a young shepherd boy and his sheep, who got more energy after eating some red berries.

It is not known if this story is really true, but it is certain that Ethiopian coffee is one of the best and most traditional. Moreover, the country is the fifth-largest coffee producer in the world. According to a 2018 report, Ethiopia produced 470,221 tons of green beans. This means that in almost every specialty coffee shop, you will find at least one bag of Ethiopian origin.

When we talk about coffee, some Latin American countries like Colombia, Brazil or Costa Rica probably come to our mind first. However, if you take a closer look at Ethiopian coffee, you will quickly realize that it is impossible to talk about quality coffee without talking about Ethiopia.

What is Ethiopian coffee like?

In Ethiopia, Arabica, Robusta, and blends of the two varieties are grown. However, Arabica is the most commonly harvested variety. Ethiopian coffee beans tend to be smaller than other specialty coffees. Because of the high altitude at which it is harvested, it is characteristically dense and hard. This also gives it a sweeter flavor.

Much of the country’s coffee is exported to large coffee companies. However, the country’s culture demands large quantities of gourmet and specialty coffees.

Importantly, the country’s best coffees are fair trade and organic certified. Therefore, you know that you are dealing with quality.

Tasting notes

Describing the general taste of Ethiopian coffee is difficult. Very different coffees are grown in each area, region and province. There are so many varieties of coffee that it would be impossible to describe all the flavors and textures.

However, one of the main characteristics is that the beans usually have high acidity. Also, they stand out for their complex taste and quality. In general, one can say that they have a complex taste, intense aroma, and various fruity notes. Many coffees from this country have the same characteristics as the best wines.

Roasting degree

Roasting the best Ethiopian specialty beans can be a difficult task. With over 10,000 varieties of coffee, it is nearly impossible to find the right level for each variety. Roastmasters are responsible for testing and adjusting the level to achieve and maintain the desired level.

For this reason, there is no preferred roast level in Ethiopia. It depends on the flavors you want to highlight. A light roast will give you a more acidic coffee with more original flavors. However, many agree that a medium roast, which looks dark brown, is one of the best roast levels to get the maximum potential from the bean.

How is Ethiopian coffee grown?

Ethiopia is also known for its sustainable coffee cultivation. Most of the cultivation consists of garden coffee. This is a crop grown close to where the farmers live and planted with other fruits. 

Another type of cultivation is semi-forest, which occupies about 35% of the cultivated area.  Furthermore, only 5% of Ethiopian coffee production comes from pure coffee plantations, as is the case in most other countries.

Types of crops

To better understand these traditional practices in Ethiopia, let’s take a closer look at the occurrence and cultivation of these four types of crops.

  • Forest coffee:  This accounts for only about 10% of the country’s harvests. This method of cultivation means that the coffee is grown naturally in wild forests in the southwest and southeast of Ethiopia. They grow along with other large and small trees that shade the coffee.
  • Semi-forest coffee: This second type of cultivation is achieved after some modifications of the forest coffee. Here, some trees and brushwood are cut down to control the shade and density of the cultivation. In the southwest of the country, this type of farming is also very common. This practice accounts for only about 5% of the total cultivation.
  • Garden coffee: This type of production represents about 50% of the cultivation in the country. It is a coffee grown in a more artisanal way, as it is part of family gardens. Many other fruits and seeds thrive in these gardens. The surprising thing about this crop is that it is more productive than the other two described above. Sidama and Yirgachefe are where most of these crops are grown.
  • Plantation coffee:  This is the most unusual form of cultivation in Ethiopia. Only 5% of the cultivated land belongs exclusively to coffee. However, it is a crop that is growing in popularity year by year. It is very common on large estates that grow coffee with the best production techniques. Its plants have the highest yields and are very resistant to pests and diseases. Many of these crops are grown in the southwest of the country.

Coffee processing

The natural and washed processes are the most common methods of producing Ethiopian coffee. 

The natural process involves drying the coffee cherries in the sun and extracting the seeds after drying. It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to complete this process, depending on the climate, the amount of seeds, and the desired cupping profile of the coffee. 

Washed coffee, on the other hand, is coffee that is dried after the husk and mucilage have been removed. It is dried with only the parchment covering the coffee bean, which is used as fertilizer for other crops.

Each process gives the coffee a different flavor. In the first case, it is a more fruity coffee with citrus notes, sweetness, and a more complex body and flavor. Washed coffee, in its turn, is characterized by its elegance and purity. It preserves more of the flavors of each region with a delicate floral and citrus taste.

The coffee growing areas of Ethiopia

It is already clear that Ethiopia is one of the countries with the greatest coffee diversity in one place. It is even more common to distinguish coffees not by variety, but by region or flavor. It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 varieties in Ethiopia.

Below are some of the main coffee-growing regions and everything related to coffee in the area.


LocationHighland area in the Rift Valley.
AltitudeBetween 1,550 and 2,200 meters above sea level.

The fertile soil of Sidamo is ideal for producing a coffee with fresh acidity and floral and citrus flavors. It is characterized by a good aftertaste experience. There is a lot of rainfall in this area, which produces this flavor profile in the cherries. 

About 60% of the coffee in this area is produced by the washed method.


LocationSouth-central Ethiopia
AltitudeBetween 1,600 and 2,400 meters above sea level.

It is one of the most important coffee-growing areas and therefore the best-known coffee in the country. There are several small regions within this area where different registered varieties are grown and are mainly responsible for the production of specialty coffees. 

Most of the coffee from this area is washed. Its cultivation and maturation is a slow process. This gives the coffee bean more time to absorb more nutrients and develop all the flavors.

The southern part of this area is characterized by the production of coffees with medium body and intense flavor. It has a floral aroma and the fruity acidity can range from medium to strong. The taste of this coffee lingers in the mouth for a long time. It is a coffee that goes well with any brewing. However, it is most recommended for cold brew coffee.

Because the area is so vast, the coffees in the regions up to 1,800 meters above sea level have herbal notes and the coffees from the higher altitude farms have a more floral flavor. Coffee from this region is more expensive than coffee from other regions of Ethiopia, as it has been rated as one of the best in the world in various coffee competitions.


LocationEastern Ethiopia
AltitudeAbout 1,890 meters above sea level

This region grows mainly naturally processed Arabica coffee. The coffee from this area is known for its intense aroma with fruity acidity. It tastes of blueberries and blackberries and has a strong body. Its mouthfeel is similar to that of dry red wine. That is, you will have a dry mouthfeel at the end of each sip. It is usually used in espresso blends.

Most Harrar varieties are grown in the wild forests and are very artisanal. This variety is one of the oldest still grown.


LocationSouthwest Ethiopia
AltitudeBetween 1,100 and 1,900 meters above sea level.

The coffee from this region is mainly washed and therefore has lower acidity. It has a well-balanced body that gives a very good mouthfeel. Its flavors evoke various spices and floral aromas. This makes it sweet and lively, similar to red wine.


LocationSouthwest Ethiopia
AltitudeBetween 1,400 and 2,100 m above sea level

Most coffees from this region have a fruity flavor of plum, apricot, and mango with citrus notes like orange peel. It is a clean coffee with a soft body and medium acidity. It is often used for espressos.

What makes Ethiopian coffee so special?

One of the things that makes Ethiopian coffee special is that it is an activity part of the country’s culture. Coffee farmers harvest the best coffee varieties with love and dedication, and coffee cultivation is an essential part of the economy. It accounts for more than half of the country’s foreign revenue. So much so that Ethiopians have a well-known saying, “buna dabo naw,” which means “coffee is our bread.”

But perhaps what makes this coffee stand out the most is the many varieties found in Ethiopia. Each farm offers you a completely different coffee than the farm next door. The country has positioned itself as having some of the best coffee in the world. And that’s no lie. You will definitely not be disappointed with this coffee.


In addition, Ethiopian coffee has several certifications that guarantee its quality and, above all, the protection of the environment. It is very important for Ethiopians to have a coffee that has been grown with the best practices in order to protect the environment and support local communities.

USDA Organic: Most Ethiopian coffees are certified organic. This means that no chemicals or pesticides were used in the growing process to prevent pests and diseases of the coffee plants. Many family farms use organic farming methods to produce higher-quality coffee. Plus, this certification is highly sought after around the world.

Fair Trade: This certification is one of the most important not only in Ethiopia, but in all of Africa. This certification ensures that all workers are treated fairly through ethical practices. Also, this certification helps many Ethiopian families to lift themselves out of poverty and train themselves to improve their farming processes in order to earn more money.

The 10 best Ethiopian coffees

Now that you know more about the main growing regions of the country and their varieties, let’s take a look at the best coffees in Ethiopia that you shouldn’t miss. If you are a lover of quality coffee and want to have a new taste experience, you absolutely must try one of these coffees.

Lavanda Green Sidamo Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Sidamo

Tasting notes: Spicy, winey, chocolaty, and fruity.

Degree of roasting: Light to medium

This coffee is perfect for people who want the whole experience from roasting to enjoying it in the cup. This American brand exports the best coffee from over 40 countries of origin. This coffee has so many flavors that you will be surprised when you try it. It has a medium acidity and body that, combined with the flavors, makes for a very rich and balanced coffee.

The best roast level for this coffee is a light to medium roast so that all the original flavors of this bean are preserved. In addition, this coffee has several certifications such as USDA, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair Trade. Customers rate it 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Atikem Organic Coffee Beans

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Sidama

Tasting notes: Apricot and citrus fruit notes.

Degree of roasting: Medium

This organic coffee is Fair Trade and USDA certified, an indicator of fine quality coffee. Since it is organic, it contains more antioxidants that provide a purer coffee with a very good taste. It comes from the Sidama region, which is known for its excellent flavor. However, it is an American export coffee brand that originated in this country.

It has a creamy texture and a sweet taste with fruity notes characteristic of the best Ethiopian coffees. This coffee is ideal for filter or drip coffee machines. Customers rate it 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Barbarossa – Yirgacheffe Coffee Beans

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Yirgacheffe

Tasting notes: Chocolate, tangerine, and nuts

Degree of roasting: Medium-Dark

These coffee beans are processed in a natural way and dried in the sun for several hours to obtain the best flavors. In this coffee, you will find many floral and fruity flavors. It has an intense and complex flavor with a very good finish in the mouth. Its aroma is very floral, perfect for the finish.

In addition, the roast level of this coffee is perfect for brewing any type of coffee, from drip to espresso. You can enjoy new flavors with each brew. Customers rate it 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Cubico Coffee Yirgachefe Coffee Beans

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Yirgacheffe

Tasting notes: Citrus, floral and sweet chocolate

Degree of roasting: Medium

This washed coffee has a medium acidity and intense aroma and is grown in the Sidama region at an altitude of 2,000 meters. It comes from organic farming and is grown by an Ethiopian family that composts all the waste from the harvest with the mucilage from the previous batches of coffee. It is one of the most traditional farms since 1887.

The coffee beans are roasted as soon as the customer places the order, so you can enjoy all the freshness of these beans at home. Consumers rave about the many flavors they experience and how good it feels on the palate. They rate it 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Marley Coffee’s One Love Coffee Beans

Coffee bean variety: Arabica

Tasting notes: Berries

Degree of roasting: Medium

This coffee is named after one of Bob Marley’s most famous songs. Its ideal is to bring the singer’s legacy to every consumer. It is a washed coffee that you can buy in beans or in capsules for faster brewing. In any case, you will enjoy an excellent coffee. It is Fair Trade certified, balanced and mild with fruity notes.

It has a strong, floral aroma that is noticeable when brewed. Customers describe it as balanced, smooth, and exotic and rate it 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Volcanica Coffe Yirgacheffe Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Yirgacheffe

Tasting notes: Fruity and winey

Degree of roasting: Medium

Volcanica Coffee is a company that usually stands out for excellent quality coffee. This one is no exception, as in itself this variety is already very good. With strong acidity and fruity notes, this coffee offers an excellent cup for those who like complex and balanced coffee.

It has a strong body with intense fruit and cinnamon aroma. It also has a moderate sweetness that leaves a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth. You can buy it as beans or ground, depending on your taste and needs.

Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC Organic Sidamo Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Sidamo Guji

Tasting notes: Cherry, blueberry, strawberry, and wine.

Degree of roasting: Light

This brand offers a wide range of Ethiopian coffees. Undoubtedly, the one you choose will always be a good choice. This one comes from the Guji coffee-growing region. It is naturally processed and sun-dried. It is kosher, USDA, and Fair Trade certified and roasted in organic roasters to reduce its carbon footprint.

The region where it is grown excels in high-quality, fruity coffees. You can buy it in 2 or 5-pound packages as beans or ground. Its distinct blueberry flavor with a sweet wine aroma has made it a favorite because it is well balanced and has a slightly earthy body. Customers rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Cooper’s Coffee Beans

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Jimma

Tasting notes: Honey, floral, fruity and lemony.

Degree of roasting: Light

This brand is known for exporting coffees of various origins. Some of the last new introductions were 4 coffees of African origin, including this one from Ethiopia. This coffee is grown in Gomma, in the Oromia region. The peculiarity of this coffee is that you can discover different flavors than the Yirgachefe or Sidamo, the most famous coffee.

This coffee is characterized by its high acidity. So, if you are a lover of highly acidic coffees, this is the product for you. It also has a velvety smooth body with a very floral and citrusy aroma. It has a slight honey-like sweetness that harmonizes perfectly with its acidity.

Out of the Gret Coffee’s Harrar Coffee Beans 

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Harrar

Tasting notes: Dark chocolate and nuts

Degree of roasting: Medium-dark

This Harrar coffee is fair trade certified and GMO-free. This company owns several small farms in southern and southwestern Ethiopia to grow the best coffees with an authentic flavor. It has an earthy texture that blends perfectly with the sweet taste and fruity aroma.

In addition, this coffee offers a truly exceptional taste experience. Its characteristics of dark chocolate and fruity sweetness seem so contradictory that they result in a coffee that will positively challenge your senses.

Smokin’ Beans Coffee Harrar Natural Coffee

Coffee bean variety: Arabica, Harrar

Tasting notes: Brown sugar, cocoa, and cherry

Degree of roasting: Customer’s choice

This coffee is grown between 1,400 and 2,000 meters above sea level in the Rift Valley. It is sun-dried through natural processing. This coffee has flavors not easily found in other coffees of the Harrar variety. You can buy it as beans or ground. Also, you can choose the degree of roasting according to your needs and tastes.

The advantage of choosing the degree of roasting is that you can try new flavors every time. It has a sweet taste with a strong body that makes it a good choice along with the fruity notes. Even if you want to brew this coffee with a more intense flavor, you won’t get an unwanted bitter taste. Its customers rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

And if one country’s coffee is not enough for you, we have more recommendations: