Ethiopian coffee is one of the most popular and beloved roasts from around the world.
When it comes to coffee, Ethiopia has a lot to offer. Aside from being one of the best countries of origin for coffee, matching the levels of Tanzania, Brazil, Jamaica, Indonesia, and Kona (Hawaii), Ethiopia is actually the birthplace of coffee itself.
But it does not stop there. Aside from having a rich and interesting history, Ethiopia is also home to unrivaled coffee plant diversity – meaning, unrivaled flavor, and quality in diversity. It is so diverse that some coffees cannot be classified altogether.
So, let us not wait any further. Let’s talk about Ethiopia, its rich history of coffee, and the coffees it offers us today.
History of Ethiopian Coffee: The Legend of Kaldi and His “Dancing Goats”
The origins of Ethiopian coffee are not like other countries, whose coffee production in the 1700s or 1800s all stemmed from Ethiopia. After the discovery of coffee bean plants in Ethiopia, they soon made their way around the world. But even the history of coffee in Ethiopia is interesting. Let us take a look at the discovery of coffee – or at least, what the legend says.
The legend begins with Kaldi, a young goat herder who lived around 850 AD. Every day, he would tend to his goats and take them to different pastures for grazing.
One day, just like any other day, Kaldi went to work and checked out on his goats. But something is different that day – the goats were acting strangely. They were more lively and excited than normal as if they were “dancing.” So, he went to investigate to see what happened to his goats.
Upon investigation, he noticed that the goats were eating a unique berry that apparently fell to the ground. Curious, he decided to eat some himself, and he too felt energized. He quickly realized there’s something special in the odd berries.
Kaldi decided to bring a bag with some berries inside. Upon arriving home, he showed the berries to his wife, who then encouraged him to show the berries to the monks at a monastery. He agreed and excitedly went on to bring the news to the monks. He believed the monks would benefit from the berries by helping them stay awake during their nightly meditations.
The Local Monks Intervene
Kaldi did not expect nor anticipate the monks’ reactions. They are suspicious of the new food that one monk even claimed that the berries belonged to the devil. The same monk grabbed the berries and threw them into the fire.
The monks threw the berries into the fire, much of Kaldi’s dismay and sadness. But as the berries burnt, a unique aroma, both fragrant and energizing, arose. This caught the attention of other monks from other parts of the monastery as well.
The lead monk ordered the seeds to be soaked in hot water to preserve its flavors. That same night, the night when the berries were first rejected, was the same night the monks finally decided to try the berries Kaldi showed them – after all, who could resist such an aroma? They eventually drank what would be called “coffee”, and just like the “dancing goats” and Kaldi himself, the monks experienced the same energizing effects. Ever since, they added coffee as part of their diet, mainly, to help them stay awake during their nightly meditations.
This is, of course, the legend. But some claim that Ethiopian monks were already taking the berries for energy-boosting purposes even before 850 AD. In fact, another version of the same legend claims that the monks accepted Kaldi’s berries right away.
All Coffee Trade Stemmed From Ethiopia
Regardless of how the story really went, one thing is for sure: coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, hence, it is the origin of all coffees.
Eventually, coffee will be transported to the Arabian Peninsula, where it will be cultivated in Yemen. For a time, Arabs and Ethiopians had a monopoly over coffee production. In fact, the Yemeni government even banned the export of coffee seeds to keep the monopoly strong. Europeans and Asians would eventually smuggle coffee seeds out of Northern Africa and the Middle East, eventually planting coffee in their own lands.
That’s how the coffee spread to the world – from ancient Ethiopia right to your cup.
Qualities of Ethiopian Coffee
Ethiopian coffee is so varied that one cannot simply pinpoint specific qualities of Ethiopian coffee, even the most common ones. In fact, Ethiopian coffee plants are very diverse that most plants are not even genetically classified.
However, although Ethiopian coffee is very diverse, there are some characteristics that are famously associated with Ethiopian coffee. Most likely, this is because these Ethiopian coffees are often the ones being bought by coffee lovers.
For instance, natural processed or dry-processed Ethiopian coffees are mainly famous for being very fruity. You can recognize this type of Ethiopian coffee just from the smell – berries, very sweet berries!
This Ethiopian coffee is incredible, and certainly very different from your regular coffee from anywhere else in the world. Should you have the opportunity to try this Ethiopian specialty, do it. Each cup provides a unique flavor that will satisfy any coffee lover.
How Ethiopian Coffee Beans Are Grown
Ethiopian geography and climate is rich for cultivating and growing coffee, hence the varied diversity of their coffee beans.
For instance, coffee is harvested from Ethiopia’s natural coffee forests. One of these forests is in the famous Gesha Forest located in the Southwestern region. This is the origin of the famous and original Gesha coffee plants, which are now planted and very famous in Central America. However, modern Gesha coffee beans vary from the original Gesha coffee beans due to natural mutations that happen over time.
Most coffee growers and farmers in Ethiopia are only small, rural farmers. In fact, on average, they produce as low as 300 kilograms every year. With this size, it would be better to describe their farm as more of a backyard garden rather than an actual farm.
Impressively, Ethiopia is still the 5th largest producer of coffee worldwide. But that is not much of a surprise because, as mentioned above, Ethiopia lines up well with other big coffee producers like Brazil, Indonesia, and Hawaiian Kona, among others.
When it comes to dividing between how much coffee to keep and how much to export, typically, over half of locally grown coffees remain and are consumed in Ethiopia. Aside from economics, culture probably plays a role as well.
The importance of coffee in Ethiopia
Coffee is a very important aspect of the Ethiopian diet and daily life – and we are not just talking about “coffee is my favorite morning drink” or “coffee is important because it boosts my energy for the day”.
Coffee is so important to Ethiopia that there is even a phrase in their local language, Amharic, that translates to “coffee is our bread”.
Ethiopians also hold a “coffee ceremony”, where participants harvest, roast and brew cups of coffee all in one go. This is not just a simple ceremony; but a long, communal process for the participants.
Ethiopia is one of the most interesting countries when it comes to coffee history, mainly because it is where coffee was first discovered. And let’s be honest, the story of Kaldi and his “dancing goats” is also intriguing!
Ethiopians love coffee so much, and although most of their farmers produce little (individually), they still manage to be the 5th largest supplier of coffee worldwide.
Try it out – Iced Mocha
Combining coffee with chocolate, what could be better? This drink is both dessert worthy and refreshing, a treat any day of the week. If you want to check out more chocolate coffee recipes look no further than our latest blog post HERE.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup of Ethiopian coffee
- 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder
- 1/2 ounce of dark chocolate
- 2 teaspoons of sweetener of choice (we suggest honey or cane sugar)
- 1/2 cup of milk of choice
- 1 cup of ice
- Brew a cup of Ethiopian coffee
- Immediately after espresso brews, add in cocoa powder and dark chocolate. Mix to remove all lumps. Then, add sweetener. Continue to mix until smooth and creamy.
- Fill the cup with ice. Pour in your mocha mixture. Then, add in your milk. Stir well to combine.
After learning about Ethiopian coffee, do you think its time to give the roast a try? Shop our Ethiopian coffee HERE.