All Ethiopian coffee planting varieties is derived from the wild trees of Arabica coffee. Even to this day much of the seeds are sourced directly from the forest. A significant portion has been chosen and cultivated by Ethiopian coffee farmers and cultivators to obtain specific traits, such as high yield, ease of farming and disease resistant.
These selections are mentioned as ‘landraces’ , ‘farmer’s lines’ , farmer’s varieties’ or ‘heirloom varieties’. Heirloom varieties are loosely means a mixture of coffee varieties gathered from several farms in a particular locality.
There are several hundreds of Arabica coffee varieties in Ethiopia, most of them are distinctive to their respective place of origin. Several times it is said that one landrace is cultivated in a single farm, each used for a specific goal, but this does not apply to small farms.
Properties like tree shape, leaf colour, weight, shape and size of fruits and the coffee bean are used to identify landraces and may be part of their naming. Much research has to be done at the molecular level on Ethiopia’s Arabica landraces.
Cultivar is composed of ‘culti’ and ‘var’ meaning cultivated variety. It is formally reserved for formal and naturally grown varieties.
The term ‘variety’ as well as the term ‘varietal’ is presumably adopted from the wine sector. Earlier literature refers to certain origin-specific Arabica variants such as Eannarea from present day Jimma-Limmu coffee area; Kaffa; Agaro; Cioiccie to name a few.
A few of the above cultivars resort to the colour of the new leaves and leaf tips to recognize the two major coffee varieties grown outside Ethiopia- the Bourbon and typica.
Few of the names although prominently mentioned in research works, many find little relevance today. However, origin still becomes the basis of the modern day classification for Ethiopian Arabica coffee variety. Four varieties namely Harar, Limu, Sidama/ Yirgacheffe and Wellega bestow the group names for the 37 coffee cultivars distributed by the Jimma Research Center (JRC) 45. These cultivars were cultivated to be high yielding and disease resistant and is currently being distributed to farmers and agriculturalists across Ethiopia.
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