Ethiopia | Sidamo Yirgalem
Sidamo Yirgalem, Ethiopia
Tasting Notes: Chocolate covered blueberries, strawberries
Varieties: Indigenous Heirloom Cultivars
Elevation: 1,900 to 2,300 meters above sea level
Sidamo has climatic conditions, including elevation, rainfall, and temperature that create a wonderful environment for quality coffee. Specialty coffees from Sidamo are grown mainly in small villages (kebeles). These kebeles refer to the coffee as “garden coffee” which is grown at low density, only around 1000 to 1800 trees per hectare, and is fertilized with organic matter.
Ripe coffees arrive at the Shefina washing station where they are pulped and allowed to ferment. The fermented coffee is washed with running water, soaked, and then dried until the desired moisture of 11.5%. This lot from Shefina washing station is RA, Organic and UTZ certified and has notes of lemongrass, lime, and honey.
What does heirloom even mean? Well first off there are 2 different definitions or ways to describe heirloom coffees one being how old the cultivar (a plant cultivated for specific traits) is and the other being more specific to Ethiopia and the sheer volume of varieties therein.
There are estimated to be 6-10 thousand varieties of coffee in Ethiopia alone*. Due to this colossal number and the way the coffees are harvested by small crop farmers and brought to the drying stations there is no way of knowing exactly which varieties are within each blend. Imagine everyone in the community gathering pecans from trees around their homes and taking them to the local market, where they are all dumped into the same bins and subsequently processed together. Therefore, we look to the region the coffee was grown in to tell us about the coffee rather than the varieties within it.
Looking at it from an age standpoint there is even debate on how old a cultivar needs to be to fit this definition, however most of them agree that it is at least 50 years old with some arguing at least 100.