Over the past decade, coffee connoisseurs in the United States have become obsessed with how beans are sourced and roasted around the world. Countries like Guatemala, Colombia, and Indonesia are famous for producing top-notch single-origin coffee. But no country’s history with coffee dates back further than Ethiopia’s, where the first arabica plant was found dozens of centuries ago in the southern Kaffa region.
Today, Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa. The country’s coffee beans are sold in roasteries around the world, including in third-wave coffee shops, where high-quality coffee is bought in small batches from individual farms and collectives. At such coffee houses, you can essentially order a roast that’s traveled directly from Africa’s cloud forests to the cup in your hand. Here’s where to find some of the best Ethiopian coffee in the United States.
Blue Bottle Coffee
U.S. Locations: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area
Founded in Oakland, California, in 2002, Blue Bottle pioneered the practice of delivering specialty coffee beans to consumers within 48 hours of roasting. In addition to its roasts from Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region, Blue Bottle sells single-origin coffees, including Kemgin (with hints of peach, sugarcane, spice, and tea) and Nekisse (blackberries, huckleberries, and sugared lemon slices).
Counter Culture Coffee
U.S. Locations: New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Durham, and more
Beans from three Ethiopian cooperatives come to the United States via Counter Culture, a certified-organic roaster based in Durham, North Carolina. The Haru co-op in Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe district experiments with different wash processes and fermentation times to produce a bright, lemony coffee with notes of jasmine. On Friday mornings, Counter Culture opens the doors of its training centers to hold specialty coffee tastings that are free and open to the public.
U.S. Locations: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston
At Intelligentsia’s coffee bars across the United States, you can sample single-origin coffees from organic cooperatives in Ethiopia. Intelligentsia’s coffee buying team prioritizes direct trade with independent and sustainable farmers. Vice president and coffee buyer Geoff Watts recommends drinking simple filtered brews to best appreciate the complex and fruity flavors in your cup.
Laughing Man Coffee
U.S. Location: New York City
The espresso blend “Dukale’s Dream” pays tribute to the Ethiopian coffee farmer who inspired actor Hugh Jackman to found this roastery in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. When you buy a cup of coffee from the New York City coffee bar, 100 percent of the profits go toward the Laughing Man Foundation, which supports educational programs and community development projects around the world.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
U.S. Locations: Portland, Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Chicago
Since its 1999 opening in Portland, Oregon, Stumptown has been pouring a stonefruit-tinged floral coffee sourced from the Duromina cooperative in western Ethiopia’s Jimma region. You can also now taste the Mordecofe blend, an organic variety grown in the country’s Guji Zone near the Kenyan border, at the coffee company’s many locations across the United States.
This article originally appeared in AFAR’s May 2013 issue; it has been updated to include current information.>>Next: This Country Drinks More Coffee Than Any Other