May the Four (Regions) Be With You

This is an exciting year for Counter Culture because we worked exceptionally hard to have fresh Ethiopian coffee on our menu earlier than ever—so much so that we may have even overdone it. Currently, we have four fresh-crop Ethiopian offerings from four different regions. We love them so much that our new limited-release coffee, Galaxy, is a blend of two of them: Rafisa and Micheta Natural Sundried.

Ethiopia is an amazing place with diverse geography and climate conducive for growing coffees. Often, the names and the naming conventions of Ethiopian coffees can be very confusing. Adding to this confusion, there have been considerable changes to the names of both regions and boundaries over the last two decades in Ethiopia. This has led to a change in the classification structure of coffees from certain regions.

To better understand these changes and the geography of Ethiopia, here is a brief glossary:

  • Region: Ethiopia is a federal state subdivided into nine ethno-linguistically based regional states and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa). A region is equivalent to a state in the United States.
  • Zone: Each administrative region in Ethiopia is subdivided into zones. These are mostly known as provinces in the country.
  • Woreda: Zones in each region are further subdivided into woredas for administrative purposes. Woredas are the equivalent to counties in the US.
  • Kebele: The last and smallest administrative classification in each woreda is a kebele, which is made up of a group of small communities in a village. Coffee quality control and marketing are carried out at the woreda and kebele level to maintain traceability.

Here are some quick notes on the four regions where these coffees come from:

  • Yirgacheffe is located in southern Ethiopia and is the region that made washed coffee from Ethiopia famous. Idido is from Yirgacheffe.

    Note: In addition to being a region, Yirgacheffe is also town, a woreda, and the name used to describe and market all of the coffees from the Gedeo Zone—along with a small number of coffees from an area of the neighboring Oromia Region to the west. Talk about confusing!

  • Guji is located in southern Ethiopia and borders the Gedeo and Sidama zones. Guji coffees have historically been sold as “Sidama coffees,” but, today, they are thought of as separate and are being more properly marketed as such. Dambi Udo is from Guji.
  • West Hararge is a subregion of Hararge, which is located in the Eastern part of Ethiopia in the semi-arid mountains around the city of Harar. Hararge is split into East and West subregions. Micheta Natural Sundried is from this West Hararge.

    Note: The coffee from this area is often marketed and sold as “Harar.”

  • West Arsi is located between the famous coffee-growing regions of Gedeo and West Hararge. Historically, the coffees from West Arsi were marketed and sold as “Sidama coffees,” but a few specific areas along the Harenna forest have really been making a name for themselves and getting the West Arsi name out there. Rafisa is an example of a coffee from West Arsi.