Our New Book on Ethiopian Coffee Varieties

Counter Culture Coffee will be releasing a new book, A Reference Guide to Ethiopian Coffee Varieties, this month at our Seattle Training Center grand opening. The book, which was finalized and published this month, is a culmination of two years of hard work by numerous employees at Counter Culture Coffee and aims to bridge the knowledge gap on Ethiopian coffee varieties that exists in the industry. Getu Bekele, one of the co-authors of the book, explains the motivation behind our new book.

To watch a video of Getu talking about Ethiopian coffee varieties, go here.

Why did we do this?

Members in the coffee industry around the world have different levels of understanding when it comes to Ethiopian coffee varieties. Despite the fact that Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC)—the national coffee research institute in Ethiopia—has been developing high yielding, disease resistant, drought tolerant and superior quality coffee varieties for the last few decades, little about these varieties is actually known in the coffee industry. And when this knowledge is shared, it is done so slowly among coffee buyers, researchers, farmers, and others because of the lack of well-organized information.

Why is it important?

Creating a reference guide on these improved, local landrace varieties, and migrated Ethiopian coffee varieties can bridge the knowledge gap that exists on Ethiopian coffee varieties in the industry.

Our hope is that this reference guide will assist both small- and large-scale coffee farmers in choosing the appropriate coffee varieties for their specific coffee-farming agricultural ecosystems. The idea is that the right varieties in the right environments will ultimately improve productivity and quality on the farms. The guide will act as a tool that empowers farmers in their decision-making processes when choosing varieties for research, development, or investment. We believe that the long-term effect of this reference guide on the specialty coffee industry will be significant.

How long have we been working on this?

The very first draft of the book was written in 2016. Since then, primary data collection and literature review has been underway, leading to the final edition of the book being published in April 2018. In total, this book is a culmination of two years of hard work among several departments within Counter Culture Coffee.

Who have we worked with?

We worked with the G Broad Trading Private Limited Company—a coffee business and research consulting firm based in Ethiopia—to write this book. We also worked with World Coffee Research in creating a Kenyan coffee-variety map.

What have the findings been?

Our findings based on this research have proven to be almost as complex as the history of coffee in Ethiopia. We found that in some cases, farmers are well-informed on the types of varieties being grown on their farms and are able to name them down to the specific number. However, we also found that there are still major gaps of understanding among other farmers and members of the industry both in and out of the country with regards to Ethiopian coffee.

We also found that the majority of coffee roasters around the world usually label Ethiopian coffees as “Heirloom” varieties which is too general a descriptor for the many improved varieties that have been developed by JARC over the years.

If anything, this book is meant to close that gap and empower farmers so that they can make informed decisions about which types of varieties to grow on their farms while furthering the knowledge that some farmers already have to increase profitability.

Where can I get a copy of the book?

All of our reference materials, including the book can be found and purchased online here.

Our hope is that this extensive look at the many varieties that exist and have been developed out of Ethiopia will give credit where credit is due, whether that is for the farmers planting them or the researchers who develop and release them.