Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

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Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Alistair Durie on Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:59 am

noted from sweet marias: Starting with this lot, we will be spelling Yirga Cheffe as two words, as it is in Ethiopia.

I have heard many pronunciations of the region, none more confident than from an Ethiopian coffee exporter that exulted two me in two loud expressions HERGA HEFFE! or something of the like.

We have been so delicately pronouncing "yergacheffe" in that it rolls off our tongues like this elegant coffee... seems rather incorrect now.

So then in two words, yet how do we say them?
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Postby Mark Prince on Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:19 am

No matter which way I pronounce it, I know Nick will correct my pronunciation :D

I'd like to go with the origin pronunciation as much as possible for coffees, but to be honest, sometimes they are just too darned difficult for western dialects to pronounce in that manner.

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Postby Peter G on Fri Jan 25, 2008 7:54 am

First of all, in Ethiopia I have noticed that there is rarely a standard Roman alphabet transliteration for anything including city names. I can remember standing on a road in Yirgacheffe and seeing signs written at least 3 ways: Yirga Chaffe, Yirga Cheffe, Yrgacheffe.... Problem is, Amharic has its own alphabet, and there is no standard way to transliterate it to our alphabet. Interestingly, one of the goals of the Ethiopian Licensing Initiative is to standardize Ethiopian coffee-place names for the west. I have always preferred Yirgacheffe because it is the most common I have seen, especially in the coffee industry.

As for pronunciation, that's hard too: Yirgacheffe is pronounced kinda like Irga CH'EF-feh with an almost silent Y, a very hard CH sound, and a slight exhale at the end. Amharic is a beautiful spoken language, and Ethiopians use a number of sounds we do not, especially slight and subtle breath sounds. These are impossible to write, of course!

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Postby Klaus on Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:34 am

I asked our Peter about this when he returned from Ethiopia in November. Amongst his pictures there was a sign saying Yirga Cheffe. He said the same things as Peter G.

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Postby Matt Riddle on Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:40 pm

We've had this discussion many times here at Intelligentsia and we've spelled it both ways in the past. Currently, we spell it Yirgacheffe. Here are some quotes from Mr. Watts on the matter: (I hope he doesn't mind)
From April 2007

We spelled it [Yirgacheffe] for many years, then switched to Yergacheffe two or three years ago, and went back about 4-5 months ago.

Since it is an Amharic word, there is no absolutely correct spelling in the English language. The traditional spelling in the industry is Yirgacheffe. In Ethiopia, I've seen it written many different ways, but most commonly Yirgacheffe. Originally we switched to try to be a little closer to the phonetic pronunciation, but really it is pronounced somewhere in between Year and Yer.


Yearr’gah-Cheffay

‘Yir’ is pronounced between ‘year’ and ‘yerr’...slight ‘i’ sound that disappears into the ‘rr’. The ‘r’ is almost a rolling r, like in spanish. The ‘Ch’ is hard like ‘Chachi’.

I believe that “Yirga” means something along the lines of ‘town’ and ‘cheffe’ has something do with water, if I remember correctly. There is a lot of rainfall in the area, and so it translates roughly to ‘wet town’ or ‘town of water’ or something along those lines. Don’t quote me on that. I’ll double check next time I am there.

Yirgacheffe is a small town in the greater Sidamo region (although the map lines have recently been re-drawn by the new government along ethnic lines and Sidamo doesn’t exist—it is now called Sidama).
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Postby Mike Gregory on Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:51 pm

Senor Jay Cunningham of Intelligentsia once told me Yirgacheffe means: let it settle (yirga) marsh (cheffe)

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Postby Andi Trindle on Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:18 pm

Yeah, I saw it spelled at least three different ways when I was in Ethiopia. And, I've seen it spelled differently on coffee sacks, too. I don't think this question can be settled.

I have always heard it pronounced as Peter describes. At least, I think I'm understanding what he's saying, but the key is that there is a sound at the end after the f.

Best wishes,
Andi

Please forgive any small typos caused by the necessity of using voice dictation.
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Postby Peter G on Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:22 pm

I have always heard that Yirgacheffe means "push away the water" because the town was built upon a former marsh.

pg
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Postby nick on Fri Jan 25, 2008 10:13 pm

trabant wrote:Senor Jay Cunningham of Intelligentsia once told me Yirgacheffe means: let it settle (yirga) marsh (cheffe)

You'd hardly even know that Jay was an Ethiopian... if it weren't for his hair.


:wink:
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Postby barry on Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:27 am

It might be amusing to consider that Yrga Cheffe means "swamp water".

Bryn Mawr means "high ridge", which is only funny if you're from St Louis.
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Re: Yirga Cheffe (prononciation)

Postby Edwin Martinez on Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:22 pm

Language evolution is a strange thing. Most coffee producing countries are developing nations and have much less education that most consuming countries of "specialty" coffees. I find it common to have many different ways to spell AND pronounce. While there may have been a "right" way at some point eventually when the more educated begin pronouncing things wrong in order to communicate and be understood by less educated eventually it becomes an accepted word.

For example for years we've shipped our coffee with Maersk Sealand. While I have no idea how Maersk is pronounced in Danish (originally a Danish company). If I pronounce it the way Maersk employees do in the U.S., I will be corrected in Guatemala where it is commonly referred to as MERKS. And when I ask why? the response is usually "I don't know why they have to spell it so funny, but the right way to pronounce it is MERKS."

Another example:
Many pronounce PEPSI - PEKSI. Why? Enough people thought they heard it diff and began pronouncing it differently and figure the second P is silent and that there is a hidden K.

At the end of the day I think you have to decide to be purist and dig and with your own search criteria decide what is most authentic or choose to go with what is most common and understood.

I don't know that it is so much about which one is right or wrong, but I can certainly appreciate the desire for authenticity and accuracy.

Hue Hue Tenango is all one word by the way.... This is a pet peeve of mine. We are doing some experiments and we are going to have a small harvest in U.S. this year and I think I'm going to start selling it as a single origin from Wash Ing Ton.
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Re: Yirga Cheffe (prononciation)

Postby Shannon Hudgens on Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:56 am

We recently hired an Ethiopian (well, technically an Eritrean) and she pronounces it mostly like Peter G described. The only thing I might be able to add is that the first "e" in cheffe is not "e"' and not "a" but something in between - though closer to the "e". Trill the "r" in Yirga. Aspirate the "Ch" in cheffe. At least the way she says it. Or (more correctly) the way I (mis)hear it.
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Re:

Postby mnasce on Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:07 pm

Peter G wrote:First of all, in Ethiopia I have noticed that there is rarely a standard Roman alphabet transliteration for anything including city names. I can remember standing on a road in Yirgacheffe and seeing signs written at least 3 ways: Yirga Chaffe, Yirga Cheffe, Yrgacheffe.... Problem is, Amharic has its own alphabet, and there is no standard way to transliterate it to our alphabet. Interestingly, one of the goals of the Ethiopian Licensing Initiative is to standardize Ethiopian coffee-place names for the west. I have always preferred Yirgacheffe because it is the most common I have seen, especially in the coffee industry.

As for pronunciation, that's hard too: Yirgacheffe is pronounced kinda like Irga CH'EF-feh with an almost silent Y, a very hard CH sound, and a slight exhale at the end. Amharic is a beautiful spoken language, and Ethiopians use a number of sounds we do not, especially slight and subtle breath sounds. These are impossible to write, of course!

Peter g


There is a standard, see http://www.qsae.org/web_en/Standards_in ... ture.htm#7 . It's based on another standard - SERA (System For Ethiopic Representation in ASCII) see http://www.abyssiniacybergateway.net/fidel/Fidel.html and
there's an IPA pronunciation guide too, here's the table:
http://syllabary.sourceforge.net/Ethiopic/Amharic.html

And to Alistair's question, ይርጋ ጨፌ (you should be able to see this if you're
on Windows Vista or Mac OS Leopard, otherwise you'll need an Ethiopic
font) is pronounced j*r*ga ʧ'əfe. This page has the IPA sounds:
http://www.eduquery.com/archives/ipa.htm

Here's how it's pronounced, courtesy of the AT&T text-to-speech web service: http://mokarar.com/sounds/yirgracheffe.wav
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Daniel Humphries on Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:25 pm

Edwin:

I hear there's a great market for specialty coffee in Warshington and Oregahn.
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Edwin Martinez on Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:51 pm

yeah, i hear it's even taking off in new yaark! now we have to figure out how to pronounce all that's in the ethiopia limited auction.
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby sweetmarias on Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:40 am

Alistair wrote:noted from sweet marias: Starting with this lot, we will be spelling Yirga Cheffe as two words, as it is in Ethiopia.

I have heard many pronunciations of the region, none more confident than from an Ethiopian coffee exporter that exulted two me in two loud expressions HERGA HEFFE! or something of the like.

We have been so delicately pronouncing "yergacheffe" in that it rolls off our tongues like this elegant coffee... seems rather incorrect now.

So then in two words, yet how do we say them?


Well, since you mention us, I would respond that it's pretty much 6 of one, half dozen of another, and not a big deal either way. I want to avoid meta-regional names that mean less and less anyway. You know, absolutely everything is a microlot these days. Or is that MicroLot or Micro-Lot or Microlote, or should we just call it all Boutique? As far as Yirgs or elsewise, it doesn't make a coffee any better or worse, and while we all want to be accurate in naming coffees and descriptions, there's a lot of wishful thinking (I speak for myself as well as for what I see around me) in the lexicon. In this insanely stupid race to get closer to origin than the next guy, these areas where we have "language slippage" are an amusing footnote, but not that meaningful. You can be right there, and get it as wrong as the person who will never get there, and that goes for the cup too. If a Yrgacheffe or Yirgacheffe or Yergacheffe or Yirga Cheffe or Yrga Cheffe or Irgacheffe get's to port promptly and ships on time is a lot more significant, this year especially. Thanks to Mnascé again for a being on the board - great post.
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Peter G on Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:55 am

Mnasce-

Thanks for the information and the links! I have been looking for that sort of thing for a while now.

Of course, because I don't speak or write Amharic, I can't make heads or tails of your links. According to those standards you linked to, how would Yirgacheffe be spelled?

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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Peter G on Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:17 am

sweetmarias wrote:...As far as Yirgs or elsewise, it doesn't make a coffee any better or worse, and while we all want to be accurate in naming coffees and descriptions, there's a lot of wishful thinking (I speak for myself as well as for what I see around me) in the lexicon. In this insanely stupid race to get closer to origin than the next guy, these areas where we have "language slippage" are an amusing footnote, but not that meaningful. You can be right there, and get it as wrong as the person who will never get there, and that goes for the cup too. If a Yrgacheffe or Yirgacheffe or Yergacheffe or Yirga Cheffe or Yrga Cheffe or Irgacheffe get's to port promptly and ships on time is a lot more significant, this year especially. Thanks to Mnascé again for a being on the board - great post.


That doesn't sound like the Tom I know!

I disagree with the idea that language and culture are not all that important. One of the great things about coffee is that it gives us a reason to contemplate other cultures, other places, other languages.... I mean, on what other discussion board would you read debates about Amharic transliteration, the colloquial meaning of "coyote" in Guatemala, the correct spelling of Huehuetenango (doesn't it mean "place of old people"?) or the cultural importance of hand-sorting operations in coffee producing communities? This is one of the beauties of coffee: since it comes from places far away from here, it causes us to realize that the Earth is a vast and diverse place, filled with languages other than English, economies dissimilar from ours, and strange, exotic, natural environments.

The desire to get close to origin, to me, is about connecting with the roots of coffee culture, and connecting a bit of the culture and history of coffee with the beverage. It's not some macho swashbuckling race to score purer, better coffee than anyone else. Those of us who travel to origin are ambassadors of the coffee consumer to the coffee producers, and vice versa. I suppose that seems idealistic and touchy-feely, but who gives a crap about how it sounds.

I DO believe it makes the coffee better, when you consume it with the knowledge of 1. where it was produced 2. who grew it and 3. under what conditions. Drinking coffee is a fundamentally better experience when it is complete, and engages the mind as well as the palate.

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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Jeff Jassmond on Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:39 am

Peter G wrote:I DO believe it makes the coffee better, when you consume it with the knowledge of 1. where it was produced 2. who grew it and 3. under what conditions. Drinking coffee is a fundamentally better experience when it is complete, and engages the mind as well as the palate.
Peter G


This sounds so simple but is so often ignored. Beautifully put.
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Christopher Schooley on Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:26 pm

I don't read Tom's post as being in any way contradictory to the well put 3 point statement that you make at that end of your post, Peter. He does say right at the get-go that "we all want to be accurate in naming coffees". I read this post more along the lines of being a little skeptical in the way in which people get hung up on the "correct" english spelling of an amharic word and what not. I absolutely enjoy the cultural discourse on this board, and one of the most important voices in that discourse is the one that says "maybe we're missing the point".
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby Peter G on Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:42 pm

Yeah, Chris, maybe you're right. As I said, my reading of Tom's post didn't sound like him. I was partially reacting to the "Insanely stupid race to get closer to origin than the next guy" bit.

My main point is this: discussions over the proper English spelling of Yirgacheffe ARE important, and are an enjoyable and significant part of the coffee trade.

But, of course, Tom has always been one of the best in our industry at bringing the sights and sounds of coffee origin to the consumer (have you ever seen his movies? amazing.)

Bestest,

Peter
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby sweetmarias on Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:30 pm

Peter G wrote:Yeah, Chris, maybe you're right. As I said, my reading of Tom's post didn't sound like him. I was partially reacting to the "Insanely stupid race to get closer to origin than the next guy" bit.
Peter


Okay - I was a little sour earlier, but the emphasis there was the RACE to origin. As far as Yirg, I guess I was thinking of it in terms of our approach to customers, not in terms of pure knowledge. I was being self-critical just in the sense that names can be significant, and can impart meaning, or they can simply mean "ain't this coffee super-special" to the consumer, and impart little meaning aside from branding. In the sense you are talking about it Peter, and your role as a bridge that opens up a route from the cup to the culture, it's a great discussion. I agree 1000%, if that's possible.

On a not-so-unrelated note, I was thinking after reading and posting earlier that I actually MISS seeing neon signs that advertise "Expresso" when I drive around. I was kind of a snob to think that it couldn't be good because they didn't spell it right. We had a topic on our homeroast list lately where the fear of disappointment with going in a roadside cafe and actually getting a good coffee is so great, people would rather go to a fast food place where at least they can COUNT on getting lousy coffee. On the flip side, I pointed out that one of my absolute best coffee experiences was going to a bowling alley and getting a cup served off the hot pad at 9 pm , and it was actually really good. I was stoked. So, in an effort to stay positive and quit writing invective on this board, I promise the next time I see an Expresso, I will stop and get one.
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Re: Yirgacheffe (pronunciation)

Postby mnasce on Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:19 am

Peter G wrote:Mnasce-

Thanks for the information and the links! I have been looking for that sort of thing for a while now.

Of course, because I don't speak or write Amharic, I can't make heads or tails of your links. According to those standards you linked to, how would Yirgacheffe be spelled?

Peter G


In Ethiopic script: ይርጋ ጨፌ
In the QSAE/SERA standard, it would be "yrgaxefE".
In IPA, j*r*ga ʧ'əfe
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