The Great Appellations of Ethiopia
WRITTEN BY Coffee Supreme
16 June 2016

Known as the cradle of coffee, Ethiopia is the oldest and still one of the most prominent producers in the coffee industry. Despite often being wildly grown, Ethiopia produces some of the most elegant and diverse tasting coffees found anywhere. In fact, Ethiopia growers produce such distinct coffee that its most revered regions have become globally recognised appellations.

Even if you’re not sure what an appellation is, there’s a good chance you’ve unknowingly ordered one by name. Tequila, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Champagne, and Roquefort are all appellations. An appellation is a distinctive geographical designation used to identify products that have a particular quality or characteristics resulting from the environment of where they are produced.

For cheese to be a Roquefort, for example, it must be made from the milk of a certain breed of sheep and matured with the Penicillium roqueforti fungus in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France. If you don’t make your blue cheese in those conditions, you can’t call it Roquefort.

Back to Ethiopia. In 2004, the Ethiopian government launched the Ethiopian Coffee Trademarking and Licensing Initiative to strengthen the protection of genuine Ethiopian coffee from counterfeit coffee (yes, that’s a thing). Eventually, three regions gained protection - Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and Harrar. Each of these regions, though relatively close in geographical terms, produce coffee with distinct flavour and quality characteristics.

Knowing that coffee is produced in Yirgacheffe goes a long way to informing a coffee roaster or drinker on what to expect. The protected producing region name - aka the appellation - becomes a powerful tool to both market and educate consumers.

Ethiopian coffee has been a feature at Supreme since our early days roasting in Woodward St. For many years we’ve ensured there has been a continuous inventory of at least one Ethiopian coffee. For the past decade, we’ve made sure that there has always been a coffee from Yirgacheffe on the menu. While we greatly respect the Yirgacheffe designation, the way coffee is produced in the 21st century means that even within the subregions of a distinct appellation like Yirgacheffe, there are easily discernible differences between the coffees produced.

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So, to go a step further in the education of our customers, we are updating the way we name our coffees from Ethiopia. We will still indicate which region a coffee comes from (this information will primarily be listed on our online store and tasting cards), going forward we will be naming our coffees using the most accurate designations we can. For instance, instead of naming a coffee produced in the Kochere woreda (district) of Yirgacheffe, simply as Yirgacheffe, the coffee's primary reference will become Kochere.

We believe this important change better reflects the flavour nuances of the different coffees we source from Ethiopia and brings even further transparency about the coffee we buy. It also gives us a more flexible and consistent solution when we want to offer two different coffees from the same region within Ethiopia.

The change to our naming convention comes into effect Monday, July 4th, 2016.

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