A good, if difficult question. The Yirgacheffe is considered by many experts to be one of the finest coffees on Earth. I personally rank the Yirgacheffe in the top 3 coffees that I have tasted. The Harrar, when its good, would definitely rank pretty far up there for me, in the top 5.
Lets tackle the obvious differences first. The two objective differences between the coffees are:
1. Both coffees originate from different regions within Ethiopia.
2. The Yirgacheffe is wet-processed (washed), the Harrar is dry-processed (unwashed). The difference is apparent in the appearance of the beans - the Yirgacheffe is clean and consistent looking, with longish beans of an average size. The Harrar is small-beaned and extremely inconsistent looking. The Harrar roasts inconsistently; the Yirgacheffe roasts very consistently.
Besides these differences, here is my list of subjective differences that I have noticed between the coffees:
- The Yirgacheffe is an extraordinarily fragrant coffee, with beautiful notes of flowers and citrus. The Harrar is an extremely aromatic fruit-toned coffee, with distinct berry/apricot notes, and a character that many describe as chocolate. The Harrar has a similar cup profile to the Yemeni Mokha, but is very distinct in its own right.
- The Harrar tends to be more full-bodied than the Yirgacheffe.
- The Harrar is wild and inconsistent in cup profile, and varies hugely across crop/shipment and even the individual cup! The Yirgacheffe is far more consistent (in my limited experience), and does have a distinctive "Yirgacheffe" character on a crop-by-crop basis.
In all honesty, the differences between these coffees are unmistakeable. If the two coffees were placed in front of you, side by side, you will definitely know that you are drinking two different coffees.
And finally, while these are different tasting coffees, they both have the distinctive "East African" cup profile that many of us at CS know and love. So, if you like East African coffees, you simply have to try out both these coffees. If you havent experienced East Africans before, then again, you simply have to try out both these coffees!
Grab a few kilos of the Yirgacheffe now, before the poll closes!