The region of Sidama is in southern Ethiopia. It encompasses many individual origins, including, geographically, the area of Yirgacheffe. However, Yirgacheffe is classified as its own separate origin.
Sidama features an extraordinarily wide variety of coffee flavors. Many different grades of both washed and unwashed coffees are produced, and there can be striking differences from town to town.
Varying soil types, microclimates, and especially the countless heirloom coffee tree varietals make for a kaleidoscope of different flavors. It is difficult to make any single description of Sidama coffees, without immediately encountering another coffee that fits a completely different profile. The strength of Sidama lies in its variety.
One feature of excellent Sidama coffee is often a profound complexity. This derives from the many different heirloom varietals. Many different farmers and pickers, each with a very small patch of land, often with their own unique varietals, will pool their coffees at a cooperative. The resulting “blend” is a unique expression of the complexity of the horticulture in the surrounding area.
High-grade unwashed Sidama coffees are known for their intense fruity characteristics, while being a somewhat lighter body than unwashed Harrar coffees, for example.
Another striking characteristic of Sidama coffees is that even the washed coffees often retain a salient fruity characteristic while having much more clarity and brightness than their unwashed counterparts.
Excellent coffees of many different profiles can be found in all corners of Sidama.
Geography and Culture
The coffee growing regions of Sidama lie in the famous Great Rift Valley that runs through Ethiopia and Kenya. The countryside is generally lush and green. Though mostly rural, this part of Ethiopia is very densely populated nonetheless.
Several large fresh-water lakes dot the terrain, running in a long chain through the valley where most of the coffee grows
The biggest town in the area is Hawassa, which has been growing extraordinarily fast in recent years, with modern style hotels and restaurants. Other major hubs are Yirg Alem and Dilla, near to Awassa; and Agere Maryam further south.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is a major religion here, and the dominant tribes are the Sidama and the Oromo, though there are many other tribes present as well. Amharic and Sidaminya are the most widely spoken languages, with Orominya common, and English somewhat widespread.