Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

A captivating coffee of the month!
Ari Weinzweig, CEO & Co-Founder of Zingerman’s 

ethiopia yirgacheffe

Ever since I started paying attention to, and appreciating, the flavors of regional beans, the nuances of various roast levels, the variations of crop years, and the other elements that make up an exceptional cup, Ethiopian coffees have kept their spot at the top of my personal taste list. Their remarkable, winy, at times blueberry-like, big flavors aren’t, I know, for everyone, but they’re definitely for me. I love ’em. This one’s been brightening my days since it hit the counters on the 1st of February.

Having been to Ethiopia three and a half years ago, I see with even more certainty why the coffees are so special. Not only do they taste great, but they have a fantastic socio-cultural history as well. Ethiopia is the literal homeland of coffee. It’s where the coffee plant probably originated, and pretty surely where coffee was first consumed as a beverage. As the story goes, a young goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats frolicking more than usual after eating the berries of a certain bush. He picked the berries and brought them to an Islamic monk who showed his disapproval by tossing them into the fire, from whence the first coffee roasting commenced. Somehow Kaldi decided to grind and brew the toasted beans and, apocryphally at least, coffee was born. Ethiopia is also the place from which Yemeni traders took coffee to Europe and the rest of the world. All of which is why coffee, quite simply, means about 88 times more in Ethiopia than it does anywhere else in the world.

The traditional accompaniment for coffee in Ethiopia? Not a croissant, not vanilla syrup, not a cookie (though that Kifli would be an amazing accompaniment). It’s popcorn. That’s right. If you order coffee in a traditional setting, say after dinner, it will come with a bowl of popcorn. And while that may seem odd, I’ll tell you that it’s delicious. Sample some topped with one of the amazing spices from the folks at Épices de Cru alongside your next cup.

This month’s roaster’s pick is a particularly lovely bunch of beans from the Yirgacheffe district. The town of Yirgacheffe is about 250 miles south and slightly west of Addis Abbaba—roughly an eight-hour drive on Ethiopian roads. It comes to us from Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union. It’s likely the home region to many of the first coffee trees, and the coffee does have a clarity and elegance that’s rather extraordinary. Carmelly and smooth with a bit of delicate cocoa-like deliciousness, and a slight, bright hint of citrus at the end. Everyone at the Coffee Company is talking about it. Barista Cholie Diaz loves it brewed in a Clever. I’ve been enjoying it as Pour-Over. Any way you brew it, it’s wonderful.

Excerpt from Ari’s weekly Top 5 E-Newsletter. To stay in-the-know about things that Ari is excited about in the Zingerman’s family, sign up here!