Ethiopia and Colombia are renowned for creating great coffee, creating some of my favorite blends. So the question is - which is best?

Tasting, comparing, and contrasting coffees from around the world is one of my favorite things to do, and I know everything there is to know about coffee from these regions.

In this guide, I'll give you the full Ethiopian vs Colombian coffee breakdown and explain all the similarities and differences.

How Different Are The Tasting Notes?

Colombian and Ethiopian coffee flavors vary depending on the growing conditions and roast level, but the tasting notes are quite different.

Ethiopian coffee is:

  • Balanced and smooth with a light to medium body.
  • Unique & complex with light and delicate floral notes and flavors of jasmine, lemon, and apricot (quite different from the traditional coffee taste).
  • Sweet and slightly tangy taste with no bitter aftertaste.

Colombian coffee is:

  • Smooth with a light to medium body.
  • Mellow, and well-balanced - with no bitter-tasting finish.
  • Chocolatey, with  caramel sweetness, and fruity notes. It typically has red fruits or a tropical flavor in the aftertaste, but it varies depending on the growing region.

Typical Colombian coffee is better for casual coffee drinkers. The wine-like flavor of Ethiopian coffee is better for experienced palates.

I enjoy both but find that Colombian coffee is the better choice for my morning cup.

Aroma Differences

Half of the taste of coffee is in the smell, and there's a big difference between Colombian vs Ethiopian coffee aromas.[1]

Colombian coffees have a rich, toasty aroma with hints of nuts and honeycomb.
Ethiopian coffees have a more complex scent. There are fruit and berry notes, floral aromas, and hints of citrus. 

It’s very different from Central American coffee, and you will notice the difference.

Everyone will have a personal preference, but if you enjoy the smell of a traditional cup of coffee, I recommend a Colombian roast.

Growing Regions - Climate, Soil and Conditions

Ethiopia has two main growing regions:

  • Yirgacheffe: high altitudes and green terrain. The coffee has delicate floral and citrus flavors.
  • Harrar: bare landscape and wild coffee plants. The coffee has blueberry and dark chocolate notes.

Colombia has rich volcanic soil across the country that adds to the flavor of the beans.[2] There are 3 main growing regions:

  • South: high altitudes that produces zesty, bright, sweet flavors. Specialty coffee brands operate in this region.
  • North: lower altitudes here and higher temperatures. The coffee has chocolatey and nutty notes and a caramel-like sweetness.
  • Central: tropical climate. The coffee has a medium body, balanced flavor, and mellow acidity. Brands like Starbucks and Juan Valdez have farms here.

The conditions in Ethiopia provide greater variety, but you get noticeable taste differences from different Colombian growing regions.

Acidity Levels – Which Is Higher?

The acidity levels are one of the key differences between Colombian and Ethiopian coffee.

Ethiopian coffee has a much higher acidity than coffee from Colombia. 

This is because the coffee is grown more slowly on the coffee farms, so the natural acidic compounds can develop.

The higher acidity in Ethiopian coffee beans gives more interesting flavors and makes Ethiopian coffee unique.

Unfortunately, the acids can impact those with pre-existing digestive conditions, and not everyone can drink an Ethiopian brew.[3]

Colombian coffee still has some acidity and bold flavor, but the lower acidic content is the reason it's so mellow. A delicious brew from Colombia is better for those with sensitive stomachs.

Caffeine Levels – Which Is Higher?

Ethiopian coffee beans typically have 1.10-1.20% caffeine content, lower than most other African coffees.

Colombian coffee beans tend to be slightly stronger, with a caffeine content of 1.20-1.35% caffeine.

Both Colombian and Ethiopian coffees will give you a balanced caffeine boost that isn’t overwhelming.

Colombian coffee contains slightly more caffeine, but it’s not so much as to be something that we would notice.

Roast Levels – How Do They Compare?

Colombian and Ethiopian coffee beans are dense because they're grown at high altitudes.

This means they take on the heat from the roasting process more quickly and don't need to be exposed to high temperatures for as long.

Ethiopian coffee is usually only light or medium-roasted. The lighter roast helps to preserve the delicate flavors and lets the floral notes shine through.

Colombian coffee doesn't have these light notes, and it's common for them to be medium or dark roast.

Full-bodied medium-dark roasts are most common in Colombia, though you can still find light-roasted coffee if you prefer lighter tastes.

Certifications – Is There a Winner?

Colombia and Ethiopia have separate grading processes.

In Colombia, coffee beans are graded by size. Columbia Supremo beans are the largest and Columbia Excelso is the smallest. Most exported beans are Supremo.

In Ethiopia, coffee is graded based on the raw qualities of the bean and after they have been processed.[4] This includes looking at the size, shape, color, odor, and defects.

Ethiopian beans are given a score out of 100 and graded. Grades 1 and 2 (80+ and 70+ scores) are given specialty coffee status. Grades 3 and below (under 65) are commercial coffees.

The competitive nature of the coffee market makes the Ethiopian certification and standards much more robust, and the quality of Ethiopian coffee around the world is higher than Colombian.

Price For Consumers?

Coffee from Colombia and Ethiopia costs more than coffee from most other countries.

This is because they’re highly regarded coffees and because of the coffee farming process in each country.

Colombian coffee is more expensive. It's typically $7-$13 per Kg at wholesale but will cost $12-$25 a pound from brands like Starbucks.

In comparison, coffee from Ethiopia typically costs $4-$7 per Kg wholesale, but from brands like Starbucks costs $8-$15 a pound.

The higher costs for Colombian coffee are because of the intense growing process and the materials and labor involved.

However, the cost of coffee in each country varies, and you can find some budget options in Colombia and Ethiopia.


Learn All About Ethiopian Coffee!

Ethiopia is regarded as the birthplace of coffee.

Legends state that a goat herder, Kaldi, noticed that the Ethiopian beans and coffee cherry gave his goats more energy and saw the potential in the bean.

Coffee is now a key part of Ethiopian culture, with Ethiopian coffee exports accounting for 30-35% of the total export earnings.[5]

Ethiopian coffees stands out because:

  1. It’s vibrant, fruity, flowery, and complex - perfect for experienced coffee drinkers.
  2. The processing (sun-dried and washed coffee techniques) maximize the flavor.
  3. There are lots of wild and new coffee bean varieties because Ethiopia is the only country where the best coffee plants grow naturally.

Learn All About Columbian Coffee!

Colombian coffee started in the 1700s when Spanish settlers (Jesuit priests) began planting coffee trees across the region.

Since then, the Colombian coffee industry has flourished, and they are the 3rd biggest producer of coffee in the world (after Brazil and Vietnam).

Colombian coffee stands out because:

  1. It’s rich, smooth, and easy to drink - perfect for experienced coffee lovers or coffee newbies.
  2. The rich volcanic soil, tropical climates, and high altitudes are perfect for growing high-quality coffee beans.
  3. It’s made exclusively from Arabica coffee beans.
  4. Colombian coffee culture runs deep, and they know how to grow amazing coffee beans.

Related Ethiopian Vs Colombian Coffee Questions

Is Ethiopian or Colombian coffee better for making espresso?

Both Ethiopian and Colombian coffee make amazing espresso. However, Ethiopian coffee produces more rich crema and has a more unique taste that's better for espresso coffee than Colombian beans.

Is Colombian or Ethiopian coffee better with milk?

Both Colombian and Ethiopian coffee can have milk added, but the mellow flavors of Colombian coffee make it better as a milky coffee drink. Ethiopian coffee has unique and complex flavors that are better enjoyed without milk.


So, Which Is Best?

When it comes to Colombian vs Ethiopian coffee, there's no clear winner.

Both coffee-producing countries make high-quality coffee, and the experienced coffee growers know how to maximize the flavor.

Your choice comes down to your coffee preferences.

Colombian coffee is sweet, less acidic, and has bold traditional coffee flavors that make it better for relaxed coffee drinkers.

Ethiopian coffee has unique floral notes, more acidity, and tangy flavors. It's better for those who prefer specialty coffees.

Hopefully, this guide has given you the full Colombian vs Ethiopian breakdown, and you now know which is best for you.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8270317/
  2. https://www.scienceabc.com/nature/why-is-volcanic-soil-so-fertile.html
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-coffee-acidic
  4. https://assets.researchsquare.com/files/rs-1980632/v1_covered.pdf?c=1661361791
  5. https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/ethiopia-coffee-annual-8 

Karmy Widjaja

Author

Karmy Widjaja
Karmy Widjaja, holding a degree in Hospitality Administration, combines her academic background with a profound passion for the world of coffee. Her work is enriched with a wealth of insights, not only about the art of coffee making but also about the broader aspects of the coffee industry. Her quest for coffee perfection is a central theme in her engaging articles, as she continues to explore the vibrant coffee scene in Perth. And when it's time for a coffee break? Karmy's all about a laid-back flat white with almond milk – it's her go-to for a tasty coffee kick.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... flat white with almond milk.

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