Review on coffee harvest season

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica Coffee, the most cultivated coffee species worldwide. It is home to a full range of complex and unique flavour profiles and also to the oldest coffee consuming tradition.

Varieties of Ethiopian Coffee

Sidamo Coffee
One of the most important features of Sidamo coffee is the flavour complexity which is derived from the different varietals found in the region (Heirloom). Coffee is collected at the farm gate level, from several small holder farmers. This creates a blend that gives Sidamo coffee its complexity in the cup.

  • Most Productive Coffee Producing Region
  • High Altitude – Long Maturity Period
  • High Flavour
  • Ample Rainfall and Rich Soil

It includes the coffees internally designated as Sidamo A (which has a flavour profile close to Guji, Aroressa, Bansa, and Wansho)

  • Bright /Sharp
  • Sweet Lemon
  • Round Body
  • Complex Flavour (Rich) Fruity and Spicy, like Rue, Lemon and Cardamom

Sidamo B (Amaro, Aleta Wendo, Aleta Chuko Loka Abaya – Wethered)

  • Flavour – Apple and Lemon

Sidamo C (Gurage, Wollaita, Kembata Tembaro)
Sidamo D (Bale, Arsi) and Sidamo E (Basketo, Forest B)
These coffees can be used to create the commercial export Grades Sidamo 2 (Washed) and Sidamo 4 (Natural)

Guji Coffee
Guji region comprises the coffee-producing woredas of Bule Hora, Adola, Kercha, Shakiso, Uraga, Anasora and Hambella. Since then, it became a distinct quality with its own characteristics.

Many exporters own processing stations in the region, which allows them to build stocks to create high-quality export grades Guji 2 (washed) and Guji 3 or 4 (naturals). A lot of natural Guji is used to create high-quality Sidamo 4 (also called Sidamo A flavour).

Yirgacheffe Coffee
Yirgacheffe is a small region located within the larger Sidamo region. Coffee quality is very distinct, which allowed a small region to have its own commercial designation. Wenago, Kochere, and Gelana Abaya are coffee producing areas that have a similar cupping profile and therefore are qualified internally as being Yirgacheffe coffee.
Unlike other coffee regions, Yirgacheffe is graded internally with the letters A and B based on cup profile, A being those coffees that show the typical Yirgacheffe flavour (black tea, flowers, citrus) and B those who don’t. However, one can find specialty grade Yirgacheffe B, with excellent cupping attributes, but without the “classic” Yirgacheffe flavour.

Djimmah Coffee
Djimmah Zone is home to 100,000 metric tonnes of unwashed coffee per year, being split into Djimmah A and Djimmah B (also known as Ilubabour). This coffee is harvested by farmers, who dry the coffee at home and sell the dry cherry to local traders when they are in need of cash.

Where there are washing stations, farmers sell the fresh cherry and stations produce washed coffee, which is usually called Limu because of the woredas Limu Seka and Limmu Kossa, centers of production of Western washed coffee.

Lekempti Coffee
Lekempti coffee is sourced from Kelem Wollega, East Wollega, and Gimbi (West Wollega). This coffee region produces almost exclusively unwashed coffees, by small farmers who dry the coffee at home and sell the dry cherry to local traders when they are in need of cash. The coffee-producing areas are scattered and this hinders farmers from selling the fresh cherry, which results in very few washing stations in Wollega.

This coffee can sometimes be substituted by Djimmah naturals, especially lower grades 4 and 5, and depending on weather conditions during the drying of the cherry.

Harvesting of Coffee

The Ethiopian coffee harvest season lasts from mid- December until late February. By mid of December a matured coffee tree begins to bear fruit in clusters along its branches. Referred to as cherries, the fruit is initially green and turns red when it is ready for harvesting.

Beneath the cherries’ red skin (called exocarp) is a pulp (called mesocarp), and an outer layer and a parchment-like covering the bean (called endocarp). Inside these layers are usually two oval shaped beans, with their flat side facing each other. Harvesting time for coffee cherries will vary by region and altitude. Typically, there is only one harvest per year, which will last for 2 to 3 months as cherries ripen.

Traditionally coffee is harvested by hand either by strip picking or selective picking. Strip picking is exactly how it sounds, trees are harvested entirely at one time “stripping” all the beans off the branches, ripe as well as unripe cherries. Typically, only Robusta coffee is strip picked. Modernization has provided machine harvest for Robusta coffee which simply shakes the trees knocking of all the cherries at one time.

Selective picking involves making numerous passes over coffee trees, selecting only the ripe cherries, then returning to the tree several times over a few weeks to pick remaining cherries as they ripen. Selective picking is more expensive due to the labor involved and is only used for Arabica coffee. It requires up to 3 or 4 pickings in order to harvest each cherry at its peak ripeness.

Every coffee harvest is a challenge, with a considerable expenditure for a coffee farmer. On an average farm, pickers gather between 25-50 Kg of cherries per day. Out of this only 80 percent is actual coffee beans. Of that 80 percent only a small amount is of the best quality that we choose for our coffee.

A point to be noted is that wrong harvesting leads to wrong processing and ultimately results in loss of quality. Hence it is important to be careful of the following:

  • Do not collect the green berries with red cherries
  • Avoid foreign materials like leaves and broken branches
  • Avoid picking from the ground
  • Do not mix the dried and alive one

Different Types of Cherry Ripening and Its Impact

  1. Green: The flavor impact of a green cherry is generally quite unpleasant, lacking sweetness and with a distinct, astringent sensation. Green cherries should never be harvested and if they are picked by accident, they should be removed
  2. Unripe: have a sour, astringent and greenish flavor and should not be harvested. Immature or Partially Ripe cherry causes problems similar to those of the unripe cherry. There is a lack of sweetness and flavor
  3. Ripe: Ripe cherries have the highest possible mass that the fruit can develop due to an ideal balance between sugars, free water content, mucilage formation and overall coffee bean development. Ripe cherries are quite soft and can easily be processed with a depulper and with an optional mechanical mucilage remover
  4. Over ripe: Overripe cherries are at times intentionally harvested by farmers in order to evoke a winey, fruity flavors in the final cup
  5. Raisin Cherries: Produce a dry after taste with tobacco like flavors in the cup

Coffee Forecasts for this Season

85% of the Ethiopian productions are natural or sundried processed coffees; the remaining 15% are washed. Ethiopian harvest season starts in September/October in the lowland regions and 95% of the crop are harvested by the end of January. Farms located above 2000 masl would have slight extension after which they too would start delivering cherries to the nearby washing stations.

The washed coffees are shipped starting in December while Naturals are shipped by late March.

We look forward to a crop with substantial improvement in terms of quality and quantity in 2020-2021. The production is expected to be double the quantity in 2019-2020. The weather in the past 12 months have been favourable. Together with an early start to harvesting and the weather post harvesting has also been much more conducive to producing good quality coffee. This is notably true for Guji coffee quality as it is expected to show big improvements in 2021 compared to 2019-2020.

The estimated break up of Washed to Natural is 19% to 81% reflecting the increase in production in the ‘Natural’ coffee growing areas of the West (Wellega, Illubabor and Djimmah).However, there is a shortage with prices being equal while comparing with Guji and Sidama coffee. We also expect more volume of ‘Natural’ from the South.
The harvest in 2020-2021 started much earlier than the previous year and there is much trading of the new crop of Washed coffees at Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. In November, we expect much more coffee to be available.

Cherry prices started at higher level this season comparing to the previous season. Meanwhile, red cherry prices seems to be stable at around 25Birr/Kg.

Harvest has commenced in all major coffee growing areas of Ethiopia.

Area Price
Guji 23 Birr/Kg
Limu 26 Birr/Kg
West Arsi 22 Birr/Kg
Sidamo 26 Birr/Kg

Fig 1: Cherry Prices for 2020-2021

In Guji, cherry prices have been adjusted down to 23 Birr/kg, compared to the industry average of 28 Birr/kg last season.

The harvest is pretty much over in all major coffee growing regions in Ethiopia. Washed coffees are being graded in Bule hora and Adola Laboratory checkpoints and entering Addis Ababa Kality warehouses by the truckloads.

Kerchanshe is the only company in Ethiopia that can dry coffee beans in a short period of time. It has imported six drier machines from Brazil and installed in the following branches

  1. Adola
  2. Bule Hora
  3. Dimtu Hambella
  4. Kercha Rare
  5. Edera
  6. Warka

The first batch of coffee came in from the regions of West Arsi, Guji Sidamo, and Limu. These are good in quality but lack acidity and pronounced aromatic characteristics. We started receiving coffee well up in the 57’s during early February from Guji, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and West Arsi, Bale Berbere, Djimma and Wollega Areas.

Last year washed coffee was procured from the Bule Hora Site on 22/04/2012 E.C and this year on 27/02/2013 E.C.

Washed Coffee Ratio: 2020/21 Natural Coffee Ratio 2020/21
Product Type 450
Banko Baya
Haro Welabu
Clean Coffee 320 + 1 .56 320 313 320 + 13 = 333 163 163
Gravity 32 40.43 33.49 15 10 16
C- Grade 6 5.2 5.2 3 4 4
Hand Pick 11 18 15.34 3 3 2
Total 370.56 383.63 367.03 354 180 185

In the South we are expecting a higher proportion of Naturals to be produced compared to the previous crop due to larger crop volume that exceeded washing capacity. So expect more Sidamo 4 and even high grade Naturals, than last year.


Our team works with stakeholders on all three stages to deliver on the promise of high quality green coffee to our customers.

  1. We work with farmers to observe and advise on pre-harvest and Post- harvest management.
  2. We visit washing stations and dry mills regularly to investigate the processes and follow up on our selected lots.
  3. We also maintain good working relationships with washing stations and give regular advice and request certain requirements from our farmers that fit our quality standards.


Article created by:
Head of Quality & Q Grader
Kerchanshe Trading PLC