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
, 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.