Yirgacheffe is a small micro-region within the much larger region of Sidama. However, Yirgacheffe coffees are so distinct and so well-recognized internationally that they are grouped into their own special category.
Though much, much smaller than the other regions, the quality of Yirgacheffe coffee has allowed it to become as well known or even better known that the large, famous coffee producing regions of Harrar and Sidama proper.
Yirgacheffe itself is a small town of about 20.000, located somewhat centrally in relationship to the other coffee growing areas of Sidama, between the large towns of Dilla and Agere Maryam.
Three other small woredas or zones that touch Yirgacheffe have very similar coffees and are grouped with it in the classification. These are Wenago, Kochere, and Gelana Abaya.
Yirgacheffe is culturally and geographically similar to surrounding Sidama. With the growth of the specialty industry, it has also become something of a pilgrimage spot for international buyers who seek out top quality coffees.
Top grade Yirgacheffe coffees share many characteristics with the best Sidama coffees. Fruit flavors, a bright acidity, and a silky mouthfeel are some of its hallmarks.
Yirgacheffe produces both washed and unwashed coffees. While it originally became famous mostly for its washed coffees, recent years have seen the export of some highly sought-after top-rate unwashed coffees as well.
Top grade washed coffees from Yirgacheffe are renowned for bright citrus acidity, often with a lemony character, with excellent sweetness. The other hallmark of the coffee is a light, herbaceous quality that compliments the fruit flavors well, for a complex and flavorful coffee.
The best unwashed coffees from Yirgacheffe often retain a high degree of acidity, with softer fruit flavors and sometimes berry characteristics.
All Yirgacheffe coffees are given a grade, as well as a letter characteristic, either A or B. Unlike with he other large coffee regions, these letters do indeed make a qualitative distinction.
For all Yirgacheffe coffees, the letter A designates “coffee having Yirgacheffe flavor”; the letter B designates “coffee, lacking Yirgacheffe flavor.
It is possible to find specialty grade coffees among the B category. These would be coffees with excellent cup characteristics, but characteristics that cannot be considered “classic Yirgacheffe flavor.”
The delivery center for all Yirgachefe coffees is the nearby large town of Dilla.
All commercial grade coffee, washed and unwashed, graded 3 through 9, is simply called Yirgacheffe A or Yirgacheffe B. Both categories include the four Yirgacheffe zones: Yirgachefe A: Yirgachefe, Wenago, Kochere, Gelena/Abaya Yirgachefe B: Yirgachefe, Wenago, Kochere, Gelena/Abaya
Specialty grade coffee, both washed and unwashed, graded Ql and Q2, is given a designation by one of the four zones in Yirgacheffe. The A and B designations, once again, refer to the presence or lack of classic Yirgacheffe flavor.