In Ethiopia, coffee is produced under four different systems. These are:
- Forest coffee,
- Semi-forest coffee,
- Garden coffee and
- Plantation coffee
- Wild coffee, or forest coffee, is a type of coffee grown in the forest. This type of coffee, also known as "wild coffee," is grown from seeds that are scattered around the forest. Approximately 10% of Ethiopia’s coffee is supplied from this source.
- Semi-forest coffee plants are generated from seedlings cultivated in nurseries that are placed in a thinned forest on a regular basis. Farmers chop the weeds once a year to make harvesting easier. It accounts for around 35% of coffee produced in Ethiopia.
- Farmers who cultivate garden coffee do so in their own vicinity. The coffee is grown in modest densities, largely fertilized with organic materials. 35% of the country's overall output comes from this method of cultivation.
- Large commercial farms grow plantation coffee and employs recommended agronomic practices such as better seedlings, spacing, correct mulching, manuring, weeding, shade regulation, and pruning. Plantation coffee is grown on previously cleared land, with seedlings raised in nurseries and routinely planted alongside shade plants. This represents 20% of overall coffee production in Ethiopia.
There are two main coffee harvest seasons in Ethiopia, “Belg” (Autumn) and “Meheher” (Spring). Typically, precipitation occurs between February and June for Autumn and June and October during Spring.
Harvesting time for coffee cherries will vary by region and altitude. Overall, the harvest period can range between September and March. But there is typically only one harvest per year, which will last for 2 to 3 months as the cherries ripen.
The cherry is initially green and turns red when it is ready for harvesting. Coffee fruits require 6-9 months for maturity after blooming, depending on the variety and the environment.
3.2 Dry Processing
Dry processing is believed to be the oldest and simplest processing method. The coffee produced through this method is called Dry Processed or Natural. Dry processing involves primary and secondary phases described below.
- Dry: Primary Processing
After the cherries are picked, they are cleaned and sorted separating the unripe, overripe, and damaged beans, as well as any dirt or twigs, which are removed before being laid out in the sun to dry.
- Dry: Secondary Processing
The second step of the dry processing method involves sorting the beans into different grades before sending them to a cleaning facility. A number of processes are carried out in the cleaning facility in order to get the cleaned and color sorted coffee beans.
3.2 Wet Processing
Wet processing is a relatively more sophisticated processing method. The coffee produced through this method is called Washed. The primary and secondary phases of wet processing are described below.
- Wet: Primary Processing
Wet processing, like dry processing, begins with cleaning and sorting the harvested cherries to get rid of any dirt, twigs, leaves, or damaged beans. Most commonly this is followed by floatation, where ripe cherries are separated. When the cherries are placed on a washing channel, the rejected cherries tend to float and are removed.
The cherries are then de-pulped (removing outer skin) usually after 8-12 hours after harvest. At this stage, a layer referred to as Mucilage (a sticky sugary layer) will still be surfacing, then it will be left to undergo fermentation.
The coffee then will be taken to a washing channel which will remove the mucilage, leaving the beans with a parchment layer. Then the beans will be laid out to dry.
- Wet: Secondary Processing
The dried beans are sent on to the next stage of processing, where they will be graded. The beans will then be transferred to a dry mill to undergo hulling. This is the process of removing the parchments. Through next steps in the process, polished, cleaned and color sorted beans will be ready.