An Ethiopian legend says, three men Abol, Atona and Baraka, went on a retreat in search of god and hopping to receive the manna collecting coffee berriesfrom sky. But nothing came down and they were treated with starvation.

Eventually, separately revealed to each of them two fabulous plants the Kat and the coffee. “Chew the leaves of the first one, they heard. “Roast the berry of the second and drink the infusion” they heard again.

The three did so. Their hunger disappeared; they become full of life and could purse their pious hermitage. Each of them prepared his coffee and offered it to his colleagues.

The traditional preparation of coffee, are three times in a row, is thus believed to denote the three men. The first infusion is called abol, from the semetic  ‘awal’ meaning first; the second atona (or tona) from the semetic ‘itnin’ meaning  two; the third baraka stands for blessing, a rite at the end of a coffee session.

Another legend going as far back as 1445 has it that “a young Abyssinian goatherd, named Kaldi  in oriental literature, noticed to his amazement, that, after chewing the bright red berries from a tree, his goats pranced in an unusually frisky manner.  He too tried the berry and enjoyed its stimulating effect.

A monk from neighboring monastery, who found Kaldi in this invigorated state, decided to try the berry with his friars. They all felt alert during their night prayers. Soon, the news spread and all the monks of the realm were chewing the berry before their night prayer”.

It is nature which initiated coffee production in Ethiopia thousands of years ago, in the jungles of Kaffa, Illubabor, wollega, Bale and other regions. Coffee grew under the canopy of forest trees. It was in these forests that coffee arabica originated and then spread to the rest of the world to constitute the ancestor of the present day coffee plantations of the world.

In Ethiopia, coffee production by man started much later than the one by nature. It is believed that man started to grow coffee in the forteen or fifteenth century to supplenment his natural coffee supply.

To the Ethiopian, good quality coffee is that glossy bean, sweating with exotic smelling aromatic oils that penetrates even the most lifeless sensory nerves of the nasal cavity when roasted, then brewed in a clay pot (jebena) and sipped streaming hot unsweetened or with a pinch of salt.

cultural coffee ceremonyThe fact that Ethiopia is believed to be the original home of Arabica coffee and that coffee still grows wild is more than a sufficient proof that the country is naturally endowed with the optimum ecological conditions the plant requires.

It grows wild, means that it has withstood the ravages of numerous pests and bacterial, viral, fungal plagues and diseases through millennia of ages.

These attributes give it the genetic makeup and sturdiness to grow and spread with or without minimum human pampering and interference. This means that there is not much need for pesticides, fertilizers and protection chemicals, making coffee naturally organic.

Ethiopian coffee has interesting natural characteristics and diversity in bean size, shape, cup taste, acidity and aroma, variation depending on the particular locality of growth.

Indeed, the wide range ecological condition that prevails in Ethiopia has created conducive atmosphere for the production of different quality types that one cannot find elsewhere.  The most popularly known ones are Sidamo, Yirga-Cheffe, Limu, Kaffa, Gimbi and Harer, named after their production regions.

Ethiopian coffee has remained an important crop ever since its legendary discovery in the 9th century. The export of coffee is originated in Ethiopia as of its discovery.

It started in the 14th century in Ethiopia, most probably in the eastern part of Ethiopia, from where it crossed the strait of Bab el Mendeb to reach the port of Aden. From here it gradually spread to the rest of the world, reaching USA only towards the end of the 18th century.

Situated in the horn of Africa and maintaining an important position with regard to the red sea, Ethiopia has been providing coffee to the world since the realization of the use and importance of the crop.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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