A beginners guide to coffee: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee are all very well, but if there’s one coffee that stands out for me it’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Packed full of fruity flavors and delicious hot or cold, it’s my favourite coffee by far. Here’s why you need to try this humble African bean.

Region and history

To many, Ethiopia is regarded as the birthplace of the humble coffee bean. The — possibly apocryphal — story goes that 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. Now this story may be more myth than truth, but the reality is that coffee has been grown and enjoyed in Ethiopia for centuries and the country is now a major coffee growing region. Amongst the many beans grown and harvested in Ethiopia, the ones from the Yirgacheffe region in Sidamo are some of the best in the world. 

Like many high-end beans, Yirgacheffe is grown at high elevation (1,700 – 2, 200 meters above sea level) and hand picked. Once picked the beans are wet processed, or “washed.” This process, more commonly used in Latin American countries, results in a coffee who a bright clean taste and high acidity.

Flavor profile

ShutterstockThere’s always going to be a little variation in taste even from beans found in localised regions. That being said, there are certain characteristics that all Yirgacheffe beans will have in common. One of the most noticeable things about Yirgacheffe is its brightness. Thanks to the combination of the bean and the processing methods, the coffee has a clean quality that makes it an ideal bean to try hot or iced.

Like many African coffees, Yirgacheffe coffee tends to be light- or medium-bodied and has strong floral notes. Along with floral and citrus flavors expect to taste berries, nuts, chocolate, and wine.

Food pairings

ShutterstockFruits, particularly of the tropical variety, really bring out the fruity and berry notes of Yirgacheffe. Fruit-based cakes, bars, or just a fruit salad are a great companion to this coffee. Lemon pound cake, or lemon meringue pie are a great compliment to the citrusy taste of Yirgacheffe and other Ethiopian coffees. Chocolate pairs extremely well with Yirgacheffe and brings out the wine notes of the coffee.

If you’re feeling little bolder, there are a few savoury options to try that pair with Yirgacheffe. Spicy, peppery food will bring out the herbal notes, while sour strong cheeses will really make the citrus notes pop.

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