In Ethiopia are found all the important elements for growing coffee: favorable altitudes, ample rainfall, suitable temperatures and fertile soil. These ideal conditions enable coffee to be grown throughout the country. An estimated 400,000 hectares of land in the regions west, south and east of Addis Ababa are planted with arabica coffee only, at elevations of about 3,600 feet.

Roughly 80 percent of Ethiopia’s exports are natural (sun-dried) arabica coffees, the remainder is washed. This nation’s coffees are all named after the geographic location where they are grown, hence Limu coffee is grown in Limu, in the southwest of the country, at altitudes between 3,600 and 6,200 feet. The Heirloom Varietals from this area are known to offer a cup profile described as bright and well balanced, with lemon/lima nuances and floral notes.

This Ethiopian Limu Washed Grade 2 coffee (all washed) is similar to Sidamo and Yirgacheffe, but with milder acidity. Sidamo and Yirg are Limu’s neighbors, but their coffees do not have the citric snap this Limu cup offers. Limu’s coffee flavor is described as balanced and clean in the cup. In general, washed coffees will cup more consistently than the natural-processed beans.

Until recently, coffee roasters had hardly ever seen the créme de la créme of Ethiopian washed coffee: grade 1 (0-3 visual defects). We thought this special grade only existed in our imaginations and, as a result, exporters were trading grade 2 beans (4-12 defects). One of the premium gourmet coffees worldwide, this bean is medium sized, with a distinctive rounded shape and greenish color. It is one of the best selling coffees, thanks to its enjoyable mouth flavors and sweet chocolate aftertaste.

About five years ago, the Ethiopian coffee industry was reformed. As a result, coffee cooperatives can now sell green coffee directly to foreign buyers, working under the umbrella of what they call “unions.” There are four unions in the country, representing at least 140 cooperatives and thousands of farmers with small (1 to 2 hectare) farms.


Lake Kivu, nestled high in Africa’s Kivu province, is bordered by active volcanos on the northeast and southeast, and by Africa’s Great Rift Valley to the extreme east. It is in this serene spot, situated between Zaire and Rwanda, in a temperate environment 5,000 feet above sea level, that these incredible coffee plants grow. When properly cultivated, harvested and processed, Zaire Kivu coffee can rival even the best Kenyan.

Organically grown on the hills surrounding Lake Kivu, this intriguing African Arabica bean is a story of survival and excellence. Once a burgeoning coffee center, Zaire’s decades of political problems and civil war placed a great strain on the national harvests. War meant that doing even the most basic things – from planting to harvesting to transporting a crop – could be extremely dangerous or impossible. Additionally, much of the needed infrastructure required to harvest properly was destroyed during the war, forcing many able farmers to abandon their farms. Those who continued producing coffee had little access to the international coffee market. To sell their coffee, according to some sources, they had to smuggle their crop into Rwanda, traveling at night in small boats, and bartering their beans for food and other essentials. It has been reported that one thousand people drowned each year just trying to eke out a living.

In recent years, Kivu’s coffee production has consistently increased – largely due to the emergence of cooperatives that provide local farmers (at last count there were 10,000) with access to the international market. The rebirth of Zaire’s coffee industry is providing communities with sustainable, safe means of substance — and giving coffee connoisseurs another great bean to covet.

This Zaire Kivu is roasted to a full city/Vienna shade, to intensify the natural beauty of this bean’s innate African characteristics. It is extraordinarily rich (like a deep cabernet) and bright, with deep chocolate and vanilla tones. The aroma is bold and enticing, with a clean, sharp flavor.

An incredible coffee no coffee enthusiast will want to miss, the general cup profile is described as sweet, chocolate, with tobacco and citrus undertones. A Bourbon derivative grown high in the mountains and kissed by the sun, Zaire’s Kivu brings you a cup you won’t forget, providing a tool by which to measure future coffees.

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Tracie Burket
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