A beginners guide to coffee: Ethiopia Sidamo

Well-balanced, complex, and smooth, Ethiopian Sidamo represents some of the best characteristics of African coffee. Often regarded as one of the finest coffees in the world, Sidamo can be enjoyed both hot and iced and is well worth seeking out.

History, growing, and processing

These beans are grown on the Southern border in what used to be called the Sidamo province. This region is often regarded as the birthplace of coffee production. According to local legend, a young goat herder named Kaldi noticed his flock becoming energetic after eating some mysterious red berries. After trying the berries himself he felt a huge surge of energy. Kaldi had just discovered coffee beans. While the veracity of this story is questionable, it is likely that the theory that coffee originated in Africa is based on fact. Coffee beans have been grown in the region for centuries and are regarded as some of the best in the world.

Sidamo beans are grown in the highlands at elevations of between around 5,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level and harvested between October and January. Due to the higher elevations, the growth of beans is slow. While this delays production, the slower growth allows the beans to absorb more nutrients from the soil and develop a more complex and robust flavor profile.

Image by Hai Van Nguyen Tong from Pixabay

Once picked, Sidamo beans are wet-processed. The coffee cherries are forced through a screen using high amounts of water pressure. The process of pushing the cherries through the screen removes the majority of fruit and skin, only a small amount of pulp remains. The beans are then left to ferment in tanks for about a day. The beans are then removed from the tank, washed, and left to dry in the sun. Once dry, the remaining pulp is simply peeled off.

Flavor profile

Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay

Similar in many ways to the flavor profile of Yirgacheffe, Ethiopian Sidamo is known for its floral, berry, and citrus notes. When tasting, expect strong notes of lemon and tart berries as well as cane sugar. Where Sidamo differs from Yirgacheffe is in its pronounced earthiness. The coffee has a medium body and a low acidity and ends with a bright finish.

Food pairing


As a general rule of thumb, African coffees tend to pair extremely well with fruits. Citrus fruits, in particular, will really bring out the complex notes of this coffee. We recommend pairing a fresh cup of Sidamo with our recipes for Glazed Lemon Cake Bars and Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake. If you don’t fancy citrus this coffee will also pair well with our recipes for Breakfast Snack Cake and Blueberry Coffee Cake.

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Chris Slater
Chris Slater
3 years ago

You can’t multiply Wikipedia’s metric altitude for Sidamo by 10 and get the answer in feet. Wikipedia says, “The coffee hails from the province of Sidamo in the Ethiopian highlands at elevations from 1,500 up to 2,200 meters above sea level.” Rounded off, this is 5,000 to 7,000 feet.