In the Sidamo/Sidama Controversy, We're the Ones Who Sounded Like a Tool

Categories: Audio
Sidamo_Coffee Bags.jpg
Correct no more: It's Sidam-A.
Thanks to a series of comments appearing under our latest "Don't Sound Like a Tool" audio guide, SFoodie learned of a subtle shift in the spelling of an Ethiopian coffee-growing region that has much larger political undertones.

We've been happily drinking Sidamo coffee for years, believing that the name refers to Sidamo Province in southern Ethiopia. However, it turns out that "Sidamo," a name given the province more than a century ago, is a derogatory way to refer to the Sidama people who live in the region. As this 2007 American Chronicle article describes, over the past three years Ethiopian trade groups and coffee exporters and importers have been lobbying for coffee companies to start marketing coffee from the region as "Sidama."

Word is still getting out: Starbucks, Barefoot, Verve, and Equator still use "Sidamo," while Blue Bottle has switched to "Sidama" and Four Barrel, which buys coffee from the Mordecofe exporting coffee in Sidamo/a, has dropped the region name from its labels. (Meanwhile, Ritual Roasters sells beans from Gedeo, a nearby region.)

Thanks to the commenters for pointing this out. We're appending a correction to the original post.

UPDATE: Ryan Brown, coffee buyer for Ritual and the voice of last week's pronunciation guide, wrote to us from Colombia, where he's on a buying trip: "It's not really straightforward," he wrote about our post. "The region is now called Sidama, but Ethiopian traders still refer to the coffee as 'Sidamo,' i.e., Sidamo [coffee] is from Sidama [region]." To which we can only say: Oh, dear.  

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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