Coffee Culture - Ethiopia Edition


A Spot of History

If you have been around the specialty coffee world for a while you would know that Ethiopia is one of the most famous origins but did you know that Ethiopia is actually considered to be the birthplace of coffee? Yeah, that same drink we all sip on a daily basis.

The legend says that the first coffee plant was discovered around the 9th century in Kaffa by a goat herder that was leading his goats through the highland when he noticed that one of his goats began acting weirdly and jumping around after eating some red berries from a tree (Spoiler alert, they were coffee cherries).  

The goat herder was intrigued about the effect these berries had on his goat so he decided to try some himself and take some home with him. Once he felt the uplifting effect he decided to share this discovery with the monks, however, the monks said this was the devil’s work and threw the magic berries in a fire. 

The compelling aroma made the monks give the berries a second chance, they decided to crush them and mix them with hot water and that’s when one of the most famous drinks in the world was discovered. Nowadays, 12 million people in Ethiopia pick and cultivate coffee!

Ethiopia & Coffee Production 

From all the origins where coffee comes from, Ethiopia is by far one of the most fascinating ones, from how the coffee is produced to those final complex flavours that can be found on the final cup.

There are 3 main categories of production in Ethiopia can be divided into:

Forest Coffees

These coffee plants can be found in the South West of Ethiopia, normally in the wild. As these trees have not been purposefully planted their productivity is lower, they tend to be surrounded by a wide variety of shade plants.

Garden Coffees

These coffee trees can be found planted around a homestead, therefore, there is less natural shade. A lot of coffee farmers tend to add fertilizers to their trees, the coffee produced by this type of production method represents a chunk of Ethiopia’s overall production.

Plantation Coffees 

These coffee trees are those found in conventional coffee farms, therefore, normal coffee agricultural techniques are used in this production method. The majority of the coffee production comes from this method.

How does it Taste?

The flavours of Ethiopian coffees are notably diverse – from citrus, often bergamot, and florals through to candied fruit or even tropical fruit flavours. The best washed coffees can be incredibly elegant, complex and delicious and the best naturally processed ones can be wildly fruity, and enchantingly unusual.

Ethiopian Culture

Ethiopia is fairly unusual among the coffee growing nations in that it is one of very few that actually is a major consumer of its own products. 

On average 15 million people rely on coffee as a major source of income in Ethiopia.  About 60% of foreign trade involves coffee, however, about half of the country’s coffee production is actually consumed domestically. 

Ethiopian Coffee Expressions

The perfect way to describe how coffee plays an integral role in Ethiopian’s culture in its language, from dealing with personal relationships to food to life in general. 

One of the most common sayings in Ethiopia is "Buna dabo naw" which means "Coffee is our bread" referring to how vital coffee is for Ethiopian’s on their day-to-day life.

When it comes to socialising a common saying is "Buna Tetu'' which literally translates to "Drink coffee" or meet for coffee, you would be surprised to know that this can mean to socialise with others but it may not even involve the act of drinking coffee.

How is it Served? 

You have not fully experienced Ethiopia until you have been part of a traditional coffee ceremony. The ceremony tends to be conducted by a young lady wearing a white dress. 

The ceremony starts with the roasting the green beans over an open flame in a pan, the aroma of the roasting begins to come out mixing with the smell of other incenses being burned at the same time.

Once the beans have been fully roasted they are then moved to a mortar and then they are grinded by hand with a pestle, then the coffee grounds are added to round-bottomed, thin-necked coffee brewer called Jebena.

After the grounds have been added to the Jebena they are heated over fire and then water is added. Coffee can be brewed up to 3 times replacing the water each of those times making every cup weaker. It has been said that the final cup, the baraka, blesses all of those who drink them, so make sure to stay till the end!

If you are wondering when this ceremony takes place it can actually take place up to 3 times a day in some parts of Ethiopia. Most times the coffee is accompanied by popcorn or peanuts and depending on the area the coffee will be drunk with a lot of sugar or salt and butter.

Sippy’s Recommendations

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