The Birthplace of Coffee
Need we say more? Of course…
As legend goes, in the 9th century a goat herder named Kaldi discovered his goats were acting unusually wild and not sleeping after eating cherries off
a bush. Kaldi went to the abbot of the local ministry with his findings and a drink was made of the berries. One monk called Kaldi’s bounty “the Devilâs work” and tossed it into a fire. However, according to legend, the aroma of the roasting beans was enough to make the monks give this novelty a second chance. They removed the coffee from the fire, crushed them to put out the glowing embers and covered them with hot water in an ewer in order to preserve them. They found this drink kept them alert for hours after an evening of long prayer. The abbot spread word to other ministries and as the drink spread east to Arabia, it would begin it’s journey across the globe, and the history of coffee in Ethiopia.
No one can prove the legend for sure, but we do know for centuries coffee has always grown wild in the forests of the south-western highlands of the Kaffa and Buno regions. Reaching an altitude of 1,500 meters the climate is ideal and the plants are well protected by the larger forest trees which provide shade from the midday sun and preserve the moisture in the soil. Traditionally, these are the ideal conditions for coffee growing. This gave way to to coffee farming and production for many coffee farmers looking to establish a means of income. Throughout the years, the history of coffee in Ethiopia has been forced to overcome the countries biggest struggle, poverty. The coffee production has given opportunity to nearly 12 million people managed by the Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise which controls about 50% of Ethiopian coffee and is traded on the NYSE.
According to Selamta.net, the ECEE processes processes its coffee at five plants in Addis-Ababa with a capacity of 500 tons a day. The Haro Farmers Co-operative near Jimma is one of the more popular processors in Ethiopia producing 30,000 tons from this region alone. Ethiopia’s prime export markets include Germany, USA, France, Japan and the Middle East as well. Had it not been for Kaldi’s goats, the history of coffee in Ethiopia would never have reached this point!
When it comes to consuming coffee, there are a few different theories. It is said that the custom of chewing coffee beans came from Kaffa to Harrar and Arabia by Sudanese slaves who chewed coffee to help survive the long journeys of the slave trade routes. It is also said Sudanese slaves picked up this custom of chewing coffee from the Galla tribe of Ethiopia. Today, the tradition of consuming ground coffee in ghee ( clarified butter ) is practiced in Sidamo. Similarly, in Kaffa, some add a little melted clarified butter to their already brewed coffee to make it more (nutritionally?) dense and to add flavor. There are some places in the US that have tried to serve in this custom along with several on line recipes. More about this can be found on About Food.
There are three major types of coffee most popular coming from Ethiopia; Harrar, Sidamo, and Yirgacheffe. Harrar is the highest grown coffee and is known for it’s long berry. It’s flavor is distinctive fruity with a wine like flavor. The bean is medium in size with a greenish-yellowish colour. It has medium acidity and full body and a distinctive mocha flavor giving it distinction. Sidamo is grown exclusively in the Sidamo Province of Ethiopia and is the most popular of Ethiopian coffees. A small bean in size, it is known for it’s flavor notes of lemon and citrus with a bright, crisp acidity as well deep, spice and wine or chocolate-like taste and floral aroma. Yirgacheffe is actually a valley in southern Sidamo that produces an excellent quality coffee at 58-66,000 feet above sea level. Due to the nature of the valley’s unique climate. Known to have a slightly nutty or chocolate quality, Yigacheffe has a floral aroma, bright acidity, and a clean finish, sometimes with a hint of coconut.