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Coffee was first developed as a commercial crop in Yemen, but the arabica tree originated across the Red Sea in western Ethiopia, where the berries still grow in the wild. Today coffees from Ethiopia are among the world’s most varied and distinctive, and at least one, Yirgacheffe, ranks among the very finest in the world.
All display the wine- and fruit-toned acidity characteristic of Western African coffees, but Ethiopia’s has a rich range of variations on this theme. These variations are in part determined by the processing method: Dry method or wet methods, which are traditional processing methods that in Ethiopia sometimes are quite varied and unusual.

ETHIOPIA CASUAL DRY-PROCESSED COFFEES:
In most parts of Ethiopia dry-processing is a sort of informal, fall-back practice used to process small batches of coffee for local consumption

In every place where even a single coffee tree grows, beans can be found spread out to dry. Such informally dry-processed coffee is seldom exported, but simply roasted and drunk on the spot or sold at the local market.
The best of these “home-grown” coffees are normally sold to wet processing mills. The left-overs, the unripe and overripe fruit is still processed with the dry method. This dry-processed coffee may reach export markets, but only as filler coffees for inexpensive blends.

ETHIOPIA DRY-PROCESSED HARRAR:
The exception to dry-processed coffee’s second-class status in Ethiopia is the celebrated and often superb coffee of Harrar, the predominantly Muslim province to the east of the capital of Addis Ababa. In Harrar, all coffee fruit, including the best and ripest, is put out in the sun to dry, fruit and all. Often, the fruit is allowed to dry directly on the tree. The result is a coffee much like Yemen, wild, fruity, complexly sweet, with a slightly fermented aftertaste. This flavor profile, shared by both Yemens and Ethiopia Harrars, is often called the Moka taste, and is one of the great and distinctive experiences of the coffee world. For this reason Harrar often is sold as Mocha or Moka, adding to the confusion surrounding that abused term. In some cases the Ethiopian version of this coffee type is called Moka Harrar but can also be found as Harari, Harer, or Harar.

YIRGACHEFFE AND OTHER WET-PROCESSED ETHIOPIAS:
The first wet-processing mills were established in Ethiopia in 1972, and three decades later more and more coffees are being processed using the wet method. This processing method normally leads to a more gentle, fruity and fragrant taste of the coffee. In the wet-processed coffees of the Yirgacheffe region, a lush, deep-soiled region of high rolling hills in southeastern Ethiopia, this profile reaches a sort of extravagant, almost perfumed apotheosis. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, high-toned and alive with shimmering citrus and flower tones, may be considered the world’s most distinctive coffee. Other wet-processed coffees — like Limu, Sidamo, Jima, and others — are typically round, floral and citrusy, but less explosively fragrant than Yirgacheffe. They can be however very fine and distinctive good quality coffees.

Recently Ethiopia has been involved in a dramatic legal question with Starbucks asking for a royalty on its coffee Sidamo.

Source by Kenneth Davis, notes by Gabriele Cortopassi, Espresso Academy trainer, Florence. Italy

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