Sidama Zone is a zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia and is named after the Sidama people, whose homeland is in the zone.
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 with several large fresh-water lakes dotting the terrain.
The Sidama Name Confusion
The name Sidama is often spelled “Sidamo,” and the two names are generally used interchangeably in the coffee industry. However, it turns out that “Sidamo,” a name given the province more than a century ago, is actually a derogatory way to refer to the Sidama people.
Furthermore, coffees labelled as Sidama may not necessarily be from the geographical region of Sidama. Many coffees grown in neighboring region share similar characteristics with the classic Sidama coffee are often grouped together with Sidama.
On the other hand Yirgacheffe, which is geographically located in the Sidama Zone, is classified as a separate coffee origin due to its distinct characteristics.
To avoid confusion, it‟s best to just consider all the central southern Ethiopian coffees as Sidama, and then use the specific town names and micro-origins for precision.
Sidama features an extraordinarily wide variety of coffee flavors and there can be striking differences from town to town.
Varying soil types, micro climates, 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.
One feature of an excellent Sidama coffee is often a profound complexity. This derives from the many different heirloom varieties.
Many different farmers and pickers, each with a very small patch of land (sometimes counted by the number of trees) 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 notes and 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.