Nestled in the heart of Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, lies the lush and verdant region of Jimma (pronounced "Jee-mah"). Located in the southwest part of the country, Jimma is situated at an altitude ranging from 1,400 to 2,200 meters above sea level. This unique region is not only known for its diverse wildlife and rich cultural heritage but also for producing some of the most exquisite and sought-after specialty coffees in the world.
Ethiopia has a long and rich history of coffee cultivation that dates back to the 9th century. However, the Jimma region rose to prominence in the 19th century during the reign of Emperor Menelik II. Recognizing the potential of the region's fertile soil and ideal climate, the emperor promoted the cultivation of coffee in Jimma, paving the way for it to become a key coffee-growing area in Ethiopia. Today, the region's coffee production is an important part of the local economy and a source of pride for the people of Jimma.
Coffee farming in Jimma is largely characterized by smallholder farmers who cultivate coffee on plots of land that are less than 2 hectares in size. These farmers often intercrop coffee with other food crops such as enset, maize, and beans, which helps to maintain soil fertility and biodiversity. The majority of coffee in Jimma is grown under the shade of native trees, a practice that contributes to the distinctive flavor profile of the beans and promotes environmental sustainability.
In terms of processing, the most common method used in Jimma, as well as in Ethiopia in general, is the traditional sun-drying or natural processing technique. Once the coffee cherries are harvested, they are spread out on raised beds or drying tables to dry in the sun for about 20 to 25 days. This process allows the coffee beans to absorb the fruity flavors of the cherry pulp, resulting in a complex and fruity cup profile. However, in recent years, some farmers and cooperatives in the region have also started experimenting with washed processing methods, which involves the removal of the cherry pulp and fermentation of the beans before drying, leading to a cleaner and brighter cup profile.
The unique combination of altitude, climate, and processing methods in the Jimma region results in coffees that are celebrated for their exceptional flavor profiles. Typical Jimma coffees boast a bright acidity, often described as citrusy or wine-like, complemented by a medium to full body. These coffees are also known for their complex and fruity flavors, with notes of blueberry, strawberry, and peach, as well as floral undertones such as jasmine or bergamot. When roasted and brewed to perfection, a cup of Jimma coffee is a delightful sensory experience that showcases the best of Ethiopian coffee.
While the Jimma region is home to numerous small-scale farmers and cooperatives, some notable names that have gained recognition in the specialty coffee world include the Nano Challa and Duromina cooperatives. These cooperatives have not only succeeded in producing exceptional coffees but have also played a significant role in improving the livelihoods of their members and promoting sustainable farming practices in the region.
As you savor the complex and enchanting flavors of a cup of Jimma coffee, take a moment to appreciate the rich history, dedicated farmers, and unique terroir that have come together to create this remarkable beverage.